Did you know that the leading cause of death is heart failure? If you are interested in your health, which you probably are if you are reading an article about fitness trackers, you might find it exciting to learn how the Apple Watch can help you predict heart attacks. Here is how it’s done:

Previous models of the Apple Watch have had the heart monitor as a part of it. Being able to read your pulse while working out has always been an important part of fitness. Depending on your weight and age, you have what is called a target heart rate that you want to keep your BPM in while you are performing certain functions. If you want to lose weight, for example, your target heart rate should be a bit slower than if your are working out to your max. If you are working on cardio, then you will want your heart rate to be as high as possible without injuring yourself.

So this feature has always been important, but the newest version of Apple has unveiled something innovative and exciting: the Apple Watch can now perform EKG’s on your heart.

So what does this mean for you? Can the Apple Watch predict heart attacks?

The short answer, is that it can be helpful to predict heart attacks.

What Does an EKG do?

An EKG is a test that doctors typically perform to find irregularities in a heartbeat. These irregularities could be an indicator that you are having a heart attack or you have any number of problems wrong with your heart at the given time. These tests are performed frequently by doctors, and there is a lot you can learn from them.

Why The Watch Is Especially Helpful

Have you ever had the experience where you felt like there was something wrong with you, made an appointment to see your physician, and by the time you were able to be seen, you didn’t have any symptoms anymore? This rarely means that you were magically cured. It is just difficult with wait times as crazy as they can be to see a doctor while you are having your symptoms, unless you are to the point where you have to go to the emergency department.

In these situations, your Apple Watch can be particularly helpful. You may feel some symptoms of irregular heartbeats or distress, and in these moments, you will need to perform an EKG on yourself with the watch. Every person who has the EKG capabilities on their watch will need to go through a training module to learn how an EKG is performed with the watch. All the data collected about your heart in the EKG test can be printed or downloaded in PDF format, which makes it easy to give to your physician.

However, the Apple Watch is always capable of monitoring, and it can collect an overabundance of data if you use it too often. If you want your doctor to see the results of what is actually happening to your heartbeat, make sure you don’t perform the EKG all the time, since that is almost impossible to weed through to find the irregularity. Only record and submit data from the appropriate time frame to your doctor.

Your physician will likely want to run more tests to confirm that there is a problem. If your heart doesn’t present an irregularity during your in-house EKG, then you can wear an event monitor  that you can press to record your heartbeat when your Apple Watch indicates that you are experiencing a problem.

Doctor taking blood pressure

It Shouldn’t Be A Replacement For Your Doctor

Though being aware of your heart conditions is a good thing, you don’t want your watch to replace a doctor. If you are experiencing chest pain, for example,  and your watch isn’t indicating an issue, you could still have a whole slew of health problems that might not be indicated on an EKG. It is still important to not disregard the warning signs that your body gives you to tell you something is wrong.

On the other hand, you should also be wary of false positives for issues in your heart. If you are a person who has a pacemaker or any kind of diagnosed heart condition, the Apple Watch EKG may not be the best monitor for you. Your heart is working at a non standard rate, so you may be warned when there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Stick with the plan that your doctor and you have put together.

Athletes

One thing that the Apple Watch may warn you about is a low heart beat. A below normal heart beat can be an indicator that you are in cardiac distress, but athletes commonly have a resting heartbeat of lower than 60 BPM, so you shouldn’t be alarmed if your Apple Watch notifies you that you are experiencing distress. Make sure that you are aware of your own symptoms. It is very rare that people will experience a heart attack without feeling some kind of symptoms, though they might be difficult to identify if you aren’t expecting them.

Why Some Physicians Are Wary

There are some physicians that think the EKG is a great tool for the general public to use to keep track of their health. The more people want to take charge of working toward a healthy lifestyle, the better. However, there are some physicians that are wary about this EKG function of the Apple Watch.

Standard EKGs are equipped with 12 different leads in several areas of the body to get an accurate reading of what is going on with the heart. The Apple Watch, of course, has only one lead in the wrist, so it isn’t as accurate as a normal EKG. Doctors may worry that people won’t seek medical help when they are feeling unusual symptoms because their Apple Watch isn’t indicating a problem. So, of course, you should still be aware of other symptoms of cardiac distress even if your watch reads as normal.

Person holding heart

What Symptoms Should You Look For?

Over half a million people in the United States die of heart disease every year, so it is important to know the signs of a heart attack if you ever experience them. Here is a list of some of the more common and easy to identify symptoms of a heart attack.

Chest Pain: This is the symptom that most people think about when they think about heart attacks. In the movies, people experiencing heart problems are always clutching their chests. This is an important symptom, but many times there will be other symptoms before this one shows it’s ugly head.

Pain in Arms Back or Jaw: These types of symptoms can show up for days or even weeks before you actually experience a cardiac episode. However, they can be easily dismissed as something else, so they are commonly overlooked.

Palpitations: Your Apple Watch may be useful in tracking heart palpitations. If you experience these every once in a while, it could be a result of many different things, however, if your Apple Watch detects these more and more often, you should take notice and consult your doctor.

Shortness of Breath: You might experience shortness of breath while working out, but if you are having a real problem, you will find it hard to catch your breath while you are doing nothing at all or tasks that you’ve never had a problem with before.

Diaphoresis: Abnormal sweating is common especially in the late stages of a heart attack. There are some other causes of this, but you should consult a physician immediately if this is the first time you have experienced it.

Nausea: Vomiting and nausea from heart attacks are usually caused by a severe amount of pain, so these symptoms typically are hand in hand.

Lightheadedness: Vertigo or dizziness can be caused by a low supply of oxygen and blood to the brain as a result of your heart pumping inefficiently.

Upper Abdominal Pain: Heart attacks can radiate pain and pressure to other parts of the body, including the upper abdominal area. This kind of pain will feel like a heaviness rather than a stabbing feeling.

Fatigue: Feeling tired is common for several reasons, but fatigue is when you cannot feel rejuvenated after an appropriate amount of sleep. Of course, there are other causes of fatigue, such as depression or other medical problems. However, if you are feeling fatigue and any of these other symptoms you should contact your primary care physician as soon as possible.

General Malaise: This symptom is hard to put in parameters. General malaise is just a feeling of uneasiness or an uncomfortable feeling. Basically, your body knows there is something wrong and it is trying to tell your brain.

Conclusion

So can the Apple Watch predict heart attacks? The answer is that it can, in certain cases but not in all. As long as you use your Apple Watch as a tool to help you if you are experiencing symptoms, and you don’t ignore these symptoms if you get no feedback from your device, then it can be helpful.