You’re counting your steps, tracking your workouts and measuring your sleep with your wearable fitness tracker. But these devices can do more than help you improve your health the data they track can help you spot dangerous health problems. This is not a doctor you’re wearing around your arm though, so it’s worth pointing out that these detection features are only advisory they don’t replace a visit to your primary physician, but they can tell you when it’s time to swing by their office to get that checkup.
Atrial fibrillation; If you’ve never heard of it, atrial fibrillation is a heart irregularity in which the upper chambers of the heart flutter instead of beating as normal, which means the organ cannot pump blood as efficiently, increasing the risk of clots. This can result in coronary failure or even a stroke. To properly detect the signs of atrial fibrillation, your smartwatch needs an electrocardiogram (ECG) function, which records the tiny electrical signals that your heartbeat produces. You can find this feature in the most recent smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Withings, and they can look out for atrial fibrillation signs and warn you if you should consult a doctor.
Weight Gain or Loss; If you sync your wearable with a smart scale you can also watch for unexplained weight gain or loss. Unexplained weight gain could simply mean you’ve taken in more sodium than usual, and your body needs extra water to flush it out. Weight loss when you’re not trying to lose weight could be a sign of various health conditions, including diabetes and cancer.
Respiratory issues; An SpO2 sensor, sometimes also called a pulse oximeter, can detect issues with your breathing, a possible sign of lung disease, and a growing number of wearables come with one. However, it’s not on the same level of accuracy and precision as an ECG feature is for atrial fibrillation since the sensor can only spot one indicator out of several.
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