Monitoring your heart health with the Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch, you may have noticed an interesting health feature on it: a heart monitor.

Many Apple Watch models, as well as other wearable devices, have built-in heart monitors or access to heart monitor apps. These allow you to monitor your heart rate and heart rhythm, which are both related to the heart's electrical system.

Bimal Padaliya, MD, an HonorHealth interventional cardiologist, says the Apple Watch heart monitor is useful for monitoring two kinds of heart conditions:

Monitoring your heart health with the Apple Watch

1. Abnormal heart rhythm

If you have an abnormal heart rhythm, over time your risk of stroke may increase. If you experience palpitations or fluttering, your doctor might recommend you use the Apple Watch or another wearable to track your heart.

"Apple Watches and similar devices are very good at monitoring to see if you're at risk of atrial fibrillation," Dr. Padaliya said. "However, these devices aren't 100 percent diagnostic. You need to share the results with your doctor to get a diagnosis."

2. Chest pain

If you experience chest pain, you can use some Apple Watch versions to generate an electrocardiogram for your doctor. Your physician can use this information to get an idea of what's happening with your heart when you're not at your doctor's office. This can help your specialist get a broader view of your heart health and determine the cause of your chest pain.

Is the Apple Watch heart monitor right for you?

"In an otherwise healthy population, the nice thing about these wearables is that they can monitor your stress and exercise level," Dr. Padaliya said. This information can help your doctor determine if your symptoms are stress-related or due to a heart condition.

If you've already received a diagnosis, using a wearable medical device like an Apple Watch can help your doctor track how well you're doing. If your heart condition comes and goes, it can be especially useful with data your doctor can use to adjust your treatment plan, if needed.

Not for worriers

Not everyone is a good candidate for using the Apple Watch heart monitor, though. If you're a worrier, it might make you feel anxious to see your heart rate and heart rhythm in real time. It's normal for both to fluctuate due to illness, exercise, stress, sleep or other factors. If you feel continuous stress from watching your heart monitor, if can actually be harmful to your health over time.

To keep your heart healthy exercise 150 minutes per week, as the American Heart Association recommends. You can:

  • Walk
  • Swim
  • Play golf
  • Do any other aerobic exercise you enjoy

Exercise also helps reduce your stress levels, which is good for both your heart and overall health.

If you experience chest pain, it's important to get urgent medical attention. If you've already been diagnosed with a heart condition and have new or worsening symptoms, it's also important to see your doctor for an evaluation.