Research shows that the Apple Watch could alert users of a heart attack

Research shows that the Apple Watch could alert users of a heart attack
We know that the Apple Watch has saved quite a few lives thanks to features such as the heart rate monitor, the electrocardiogram (ECG), fall detection, and the blood oxygen sensor. All of these can alert users when something is amiss with their bodies. And now researchers at the Texas Heart Institute have published research in the Texas Heart Institute Journal (via My Healthy Apple) that recommends studying the Apple Watch as a possible early warning tool for heart attacks.

The Apple Watch could confirm that the symptoms you have are the result of a heart attack

The stats are pretty sobering. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a myocardial infarction (MI) aka a heart attack. Whether the person lives or dies has a lot to do with the time that goes by before treatment begins. Sadly, over 50% of people with an MI die in the emergency room or before they reach the hospital, all within an hour after first feeling the symptoms.

Researchers have discovered that the ECG sensor on the Apple Watch might be useful as a tool to send a notification to the user to seek medical attention when MI symptoms come on. Most people feeling the symptoms of an MI are not going to grasp the seriousness of the symptoms right away, possibly writing it off as gas or some other benign issue. But the ECG on the Apple Watch could be able to analyze the risk and send a clear alert to the user that he needs to see a doctor ASAP.

Usually, a 12-lead ECG is taken at the hospital to confirm whether someone is having a heart attack. But the Apple Watch has only a single lead ECG. As a result, the Apple Watch is not supposed to replace the 12 lead results that you will get at the hospital. Instead, the ECG sensor on the timepiece might be used to get a quick and dirty reading when someone is at home or somewhere else not near the hospital.

But there are a couple of ways to get the Apple Watch to take an ECG using multiple leads. By putting the back of the Apple Watch on various places on the abdomen and touching the digital crown with the right index finger, a six ECG lead reading can be recorded. This was noted by the researchers at the Texas Heart Institute who say that the Apple Watch shows promise of being able to detect MI. Another study found that the Apple Watch can generate accurate readings for leads I, II, and III which are an "integral part of the standard 12-lead ECG in routine clinical applications."

How to use the Apple Watch to take accurate 3 lead ECGs that can detect a heart attack

The Apple Watch can take a reading of lead I the usual way. For lead II, "the watch could be placed on the left lower abdomen, the left thigh, or the left ankle, and lead II could be recorded by placing the right index finger on the crown of the watch; lead III could be recorded in the same manner by placing the left index finger on the crown." The report notes that  multiple studies have confirmed the accuracy of these readings as they compare favorably to the standard 12-lead ECG, and the results are "suitable for diagnosis."

The report goes on to say, "Cardiologists have been able to correctly allocate in blinded fashion more than 90% of Apple Watch ECG signals to the corresponding standard ECG leads. These results suggest that the recording of leads I through III by the Apple Watch is accurate and highly comparable to their recording on a standard ECG." Check out the diagram below.

All we are looking for is something that will confirm that the symptoms we are feeling could indicate that something serious is going on and should not be dismissed. The Apple Watch shows promise at being able to do this for you according to the Texas Heart Institute Journal.

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However, there are some issues and more study must be done. The report states, "Although the data are encouraging, many limitations remain, and more research is needed. Nevertheless, the Apple Watch could eventually serve as a self-check tool for patients who have chest pains or other symptoms of myocardial infarction, thus substantially decreasing the time to treatment and improving the outcome after myocardial infarction."

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