Apple has released the findings of a large-scale heart health study involving over 400,000 men and women. For the study, participants wore the company’s signature smartwatch, the Apple Watch, for eight months to monitor the pattern in which their heart beats. Researchers from Apple as well as Stanford University School of Medicine then analyzed the data to determine how many participants experienced atrial fibrillation.
After analyzing the results, researchers found that 0.5 percent of all participants received notifications from their Apple Watch for atrial fibrillation. What’s interesting, however, is that age was closely associated with this heart condition. Participants younger than 40 had a 0.16 percent chance of receiving a notification of atrial fibrillation while participants aged 65 and older had a 3 percent chance of receiving this notification.
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition characterized by an irregular heart rhythm. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it affects nearly 3 million Americans, increasing their risk of stroke and heart attack.
Because its symptoms are often minor — shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and palpitations — many cases of atrial fibrillation go undiagnosed, which is a driving factor behind Apple’s decision to conduct this study. By wearing the company’s smartwatch, participants could see whether they experienced an atrial fibrillation event. Participants didn’t have to visit a hospital or doctor’s office; they only had to wear an Apple Watch, allowing them to go about their normal daily life.
When presenting the study’s findings at a heart health conference, an Apple spokesperson noted that only one in five participants who received a notification for an atrial fibrillation event followed their team’s instructions by requesting an electrocardiogram. Before the study began, researchers asked participants to contact them for an electrocardiogram if they received a notification to further verify their diagnosis. Unfortunately, Apple says just 450 participants requested an electrocardiogram during the course of the eight-week study.
The Apple Watch does more than just monitor heart health signals for signs of atrial fibrillation. It can control other devices, monitor daily walking distances, track calories burned, stream music and more.
Apple is expected to release the Apple Watch 5 later this year.