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The best watches and heart monitors for cardiac health

If you’re thinking about buying a smartwatch for a loved one this holiday season, you might want to see if it has these heart-monitoring features, which can help those who may have or be at risk of certain cardiovascular conditions.

December 14, 2022

Although digital watches have existed for decades, smartwatches, as we know them today, have been around for less than ten years. It’s hard to believe that not long ago, your watch could only tell you what time it was and possibly the date. With modern smartwatches, you can stay in touch with loved ones and get up to date with news and alerts, among other features — all from your wrist! 

Over the years, one of the most popular uses of smartwatches has been to keep an eye on your health — from counting steps to monitoring sleep patterns. Recent developments in smartwatch technology allow you to track your health even more closely. For example, some watches enable you to monitor your cardiovascular health with features, such as heart monitors, heart rate variability (HRV) tracking and electrocardiogram (EKG) tracking.

Dr. Firas El Sabbagh, an electrophysiologist at HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital, says smartwatches that monitor your heart health can be beneficial for seniors, patients with existing cardiovascular conditions and those with a history of heart disease in their family.

“I like to recommend smartwatches with this technology to my patients with heart disease or those at risk of heart disease or stroke,” Dr. El Sabbagh said. “It’s a great way to monitor yourself beyond your regular appointments with your physician,” he continued. “But it’s really important to not replace your visits with your doctor with a watch.”

How some smartwatches can help detect and monitor cardiovascular conditions

Smartwatches that perform consistent heart rate monitoring can not only help you improve your stamina and athletic performance, but some also have the capability to measure your oxygen saturation levels and blood pressure. Having this historical data can help you and your doctor identify trends and alert you when something may be a cause for concern. 

Some modern smartwatches offer HRV tracking and can take EKG measurements. With HRV tracking, your heart rate is sampled multiple times per second and how much variance there is in the time between each of your heart beats is recorded. With HRV and EKG tracking, you can get alerts when your stress levels increase or if you experience irregular heartbeats, or heart arrhythmias. These occur when the electrical impulses to the heart stray from their normal sequence, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly, which can sometimes be a cause of concern

For example, atrial fibrillation (AFib), occurs when electrical impulses are erratic, causing an irregular heartbeat that affects the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently to the rest of the body, which can eventually lead to blot clots or stroke. However, not all irregularities are dangerous or life-threatening. Thankfully, some smartwatches only send alerts when there have been a set number of abnormal beats within a relatively short timeframe.

Why a smartwatch shouldn’t replace your physician

If your smartwatch alerts you of irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure and other potentially serious cardiovascular conditions, it’s important to set up an appointment with your physician. They may recommend diagnostic testing, such as blood tests or an electrophysiology study (ERS), which is a special arrhythmia test that can help determine if you have a heart rhythm disorder, what kind it is and the best way to reset your out-of-sync heart. 

Dr. El Sabbagh believes the benefits of having a smartwatch with a heart monitor, especially if you are in an at-risk population, may be worth the investment. He warns, however, that smartwatches are not medical devices and may not always be 100% accurate, especially if they don’t fit properly. 

“Nothing can replace a face-to-face appointment with your doctor, whether that be at your annual wellness visit or a check-in at your cardiologist,” Dr. El Sabbagh said. “But you could be giving the gift of peace-of-mind to your loved one.” 

If you experience chest pain, pressure or tightness or heart palpitations that exceed 30 seconds, these could be signs of a cardiovascular emergency, such as a heart attack. Go to the closet ER as soon as possible.

If you are concerned about your heart health, make an appointment with your physician to evaluate your symptoms and determine the best treatment option for you. Find a doctor near you. 

If you think you might be at risk of developing a heart condition, take a free heart health risk assessment today to better understand your heart disease risk and the best next steps you can take for your health. As the state’s largest cardiovascular network, we make it easy for our patients to access a full spectrum of heart, lung and vascular care treatments and services.

HCA Healthcare's collaboration with the American Heart Association

Knowledge and management of heart-related risk factors and conditions are critical to improving overall health and preventing disease. This is the focus of
the American Heart Association’s Getting to the Heart of Stroke™ initiative, developed in conjunction with HCA Healthcare and the HCA Healthcare Foundation. The initiative includes a new stroke self-management tool, along with an emphasis on greater engagement with patients diagnosed with AFib through the Association’s MyAFibExperience patient support network.

December 14, 2022
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HCA Florida Healthcare

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