Apple Watch Series 6 blood oxygen monitoring: how does it work and how to use it?

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Apple Watch Series 6 blood oxygen monitoring: how does it work and how to use it?
Okay, the new Apple Watch Series 6 comes packed with impressively-sounding health and wellness features. Among them is the star in current times: the blood oxygen monitoring feature. It will show you the level of oxygen in your blood, which is tied to your overall health and wellness. The data is retrieved in the Blood Oxygen app, while periodic background measurements can be visualized in the Health app.

What is blood oxygen measurement? Do I need it on my Apple Watch Series 6?

Generally, blood oxygen levels represent your general wellness, meaning how healthy you are and more precisely, the percentage of oxygen your red blood cells carry from your lungs to the rest of your body. Apple says that the blood oxygen measurement on the Apple Watch 6 is not suited for medical use, it is made for general fitness and wellbeing uses. 

Healthy individuals usually sustain blood oxygen levels between 95% and 99% at all times. Some healthy users can also sometimes experience less than 95%.

Keep in mind that the blood oxygen app is not available for people under 18 years of age.

So, if you plan on closely monitoring your wellness and overall health, this is a good addition to the health-related features of Apple Watch.

How does blood oxygen measurement work on the Apple Watch 6?

On the Apple Watch Series 6, blood oxygen measurements are done via the optical heart sensor. It has been redesigned with the new blood oxygen measurement capabilities. The black crystal on the back of the watch case shines red and green LED lights, along with infrared light, onto your wrist. The reflected light by your blood vessels in your wrist is then measured by photodiodes.

The acquired information is then analyzed by algorithms that determine the color of your blood based on the reflected light. Your blood color is then used to determine your blood oxygen level: bright red blood is more saturated with oxygen, while dark red blood has less oxygen circulating in it.

How to use the Apple Watch 6 Blood Oxygen app?

The Blood Oxygen app is the app that will make your blood oxygen measurement and it is installed during initial Health setup on your Apple Watch 6. If you don’t find it, you can download it from the App Store on your Apple Watch.

Here’s how to take a blood oxygen measurement with the Blood Oxygen app:
  1. Position the Apple Watch to be snug but comfortable on your wrist
  2. Open the Blood Oxygen app
  3. Position your wrist so the Apple Watch is facing up and your wrist is flat
  4. Tap “Start”
  5. You will receive your result after 15 seconds.

Apple Watch 6 blood oxygen: background measurements

The blood oxygen monitoring feature will also do background measurements of your blood oxygen. (It's turned on by default). The Apple Watch Series 6 will do a number of measurements mainly when you’re not moving, so if you’re more active, generally fewer background measurements will be performed.

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Keep in mind that the red light that the Apple Watch 6 emits upon making a measurement can be distracting if you’re sleeping or in a dark room, so you might want to turn it off for some time.

Here's how to turn the background measurement feature off on Apple Watch 6:
  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch
  2. Tap Blood Oxygen, then toggle off “In Sleep Mode" and "In Theater Mode”.
During your sleep, the Apple Watch will make background blood oxygen measurements only if you have enabled Sleep Tracking. Read about Sleep Tracking here.

Blood oxygen reading on Apple Watch Series 6: is it reliable?

Apple specifically points out that the Apple Watch Series 6 blood oxygen measurements are not to be used for medical purposes. This means that you shouldn’t be relying on your Apple Watch to find symptoms of diseases, at least not yet. Apple states that sometimes, for some people, the Apple Watch might not get a reliable blood oxygen reading, but Cupertino does not make any general claim about the reliability of the results.

Generally, the blood oxygen measurements can be impacted by factors such as skin perfusion, which indicates how much blood flows through your skin, some tattoos, motion, certain positions of your wrist or fingers, and a high resting heart rate (above 150 bpm).

Overall, the blood oxygen measurement can give you an idea of your overall wellness, but you should be careful as the Apple Watch Series 6 is not a medical device.

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