Apple Watch ECG feature that spots deadly heart condition arrives in UK – and doctors say it could save your life

Apple Watch ECG feature that spots deadly heart condition arrives in UK – and doctors say it could save your life

APPLE’S latest smartwatch can now detect signs of a deadly heart condition – potentially saving lives across the UK.
A new update for the Apple Watch Series 4 lets Brits take an electrocardiogram to spot irregular heart rhythm.
Reuters Your Apple Watch can take an ECG – detecting a dangerous heart condition called AFib
The ECG feature records the timing and strength of the electric signals that make your heart beat.
This allows it to check for atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is the most common form of irregular heart rhythm.
According to the AFA, AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the UK, and puts sufferers at increased risk of stroke.
“Technology like this could bring us one step closer to helping us to spot problems early on and help us prevent certain heart conditions from developing,” said June Davison, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, speaking to The Sun.
Apple The feature is now available for Apple Watch Series 4 owners in the UK to use
Apple Watch ECG – how does it work?
The feature was announced last year and launched in the USA, but it’s finally arrived in the UK today.
To bring the live-saving tech to Brits, Apple had to get CE-mark certification across Europe.
As part of the process, Apple conducted a clinical trial involving 600 test subjects.
The ECG app was able to classify AFib accurately 98.3% of the time, and 99.6% for sinus rhythm – a normal heart rate rhythm.
Apple seems keen to avoid misleading anyone, and makes clear in the app that the Apple Watch can’t detect heart attacks, blood clots, stroke or any other heart-related conditions.
But it can accurately detect AFib with a 30-second ECG that can be performed simply by touching a sensor built into the Digital Crown on the side of the Apple Watch Series 4 (which went on sale last September, from £399).
The ECG feature won’t work when wet – if you’ve been showering or swimming – and it’s not “diagnosing” you, either.
Instead, the ECG app will automatically generate a PDF file that you can share with a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
The app also gives you the option to add other symptoms. If you select chest tightness or pain, the Apple Watch recommends that you call emergency services immediately.
Apple Taking an ECG requires just 30 seconds of your time – but gives you vital health information
“It wasn’t long ago that wearable technology was a thing of science-fiction,” June, from the BHF, told us.
“But, for some of us, devices that measure our heart rate or exercise levels are now a part of our everyday lives, along with apps that monitor our alcohol intake or diet.
“This advancement in technology is a step in the right direction towards finding new ways to diagnose and prevent some heart and circulatory conditions.”
Apple Watch ECG – an early review by The SunTech Editor Sean Keach had a first look at the revolutionary new feature…

With a frequent conviction that I’m probably dying, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Apple’s ECG
The feature promised to confirm my fears or squash them completely – and either was fine by me
It turned out that I didn’t show signs of AFib, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given my complete lack of symptoms
But it was amazing to be able to perform a quick test in my bedroom (that would typically cost the NHS £35)
It’s incredibly reassuring, and gives me hope for a future where everyone can easily access simple healthcare from home with minimal cost
Not everyone is going to fork out £399 for an Apple Watch, but prices will eventually come down
Importantly, Apple has managed to ship clinically accurate health tech to you in an attractive and simple way
And it requires zero expertise to operate, so anyone can get involved
The magic of Apple used to be creating gadgets that improved your life – now it’s creating ones that save your life too

Apple Watch – Irregular Rhythm Notifications
There’s also a secondary feature called the Irregular Rhythm Notification.
This checks your heart rate every two hours while you’re at rest.
And if it spots an irregularity, it will confirm it with five more readings before alerting you.
However, it won’t prompt you to take an ECG, because they would qualify as giving medical advice – which Apple is keen to avoid.
Apple tested this out with a major study that has left doctors impressed.
“Apple has gone to the bother of showing the data behind what it’s doing,” said Martin Cowie, a Professor of Cardiology at Imperial College London and the Chair of the Digital Health Committee at the European Society of Cardiology, speaking to The Sun.
“400,000 people wore it, and for 99.5% it didn’t flag up any problems. And for 0.5% of those, which is still quite a large number, it flagged up a potential problem.
“In the study, a third of those people had A Fib. So they probably wouldn’t have been discovered if they weren’t wearing an Apple Watch.”
Apple You can also set up your Apple Watch to check for irregular heart rhythm every two hours
Apple To take an ECG, you’ll need to hold your finger against the Digital Crown on the side of the Apple Watch
Cowie did admit that he had some a minor concern about the feature: “The only worry is that someone becomes microbsessed about their heart rhythm and becomes anxious – so-called ‘worried well people’ – obsessing over their heart rate.”
But he branded the technology as “empowering”, and described it as “the democratisation of access to heart checks”.
“Apple is really clear that this is not a diagnostic device, but something to raise a flag that you might need to be checked out,” Martin told us.
“If there’s evidence in due course that this does identify people at high risk of stroke, and they start treatment and don’t have a stroke – which is devastating and life-changing – you don’t need to prevent too many of those to produce a benefit.”
He said he was pleased that the Apple Watch Series 4 “makes people more interested in heart health, picks up on irregular heart rate and risks of stroke”.
What is AFib? A quick guideHere’s what you need to know…

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) happens when chaotic electrical activity develops in the heart
As a result, the atria no longer beat in an organised way, and pump less efficiently
Associated rapid heartbeat allows blood to pool in the heart, which can cause clots to form and travel to the brain
This can cause stroke, which means AFib sufferers are at increased risk of stroke
According to the AFA, AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the UK
It’s estimated that 1.5million people are diagnosed with the condition, while 500,000 people remain undiagnosed
Every 15 seconds, someone suffers an AFib-related stroke, with the illness accounting for nearly 6million days in hospital beds
And AFib-related strokes cost the UK £2.2billion every single year

Apple Don’t forget that an Apple Watch ECG can only detect AFib – and no other heart conditions
How to take an ECG with your Apple Watch
First, make sure you’re using an Apple Watch Series 4 – older models don’t have this feature.
Next, ensure you’ve updated to the latest watchOS software on your Apple Watch, and the latest iOS software on your iPhone.
Then follow these steps:

Make sure your Apple Watch is snug on the wrist
Open the ECG app on your Apple Watch
Rest your arms on a table or in your lap
Using the hand opposite your watch, hold your finger on the Digital Crown – but don’t press it
Wait 30 seconds for the recording to complete

At the end of the recording, you’ll receive a classification, at which point you’ll be able to add any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing lately.
Of course, you shouldn’t use the ECG to replace an actual visit to your doctor.
“We need to be cautious about self-diagnosis,” said June, from the BHF.
“This tech isn’t able to replace the role of a full physical review by a healthcare professional. If you experience heart palpitations, dizziness or chest pain, seek medical help.”
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Apple recently unveiled a credit card called the Apple Card – and it could get a UK release date very soon, experts predict.
The tech giant unveiled the surprise product alongside a new Netflix-style TV service called Apple TV+, a News+ magazine subscription, and a paid-for video gaming bundle called Apple Arcade.
You should also check out our rumour round-up for the long-awaited iPhone 11.
Would this feature tempt you to buy an Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments!

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