Gadgets

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Together with Stanford University, Apple is launching a study to help identify irregular heart rhythms through the Apple Watch and a new app, and consequently notify users of these irregularities which may be signs of atrial fibrillation or AFib.

Affecting an estimated 33.5 million people around the world, AFib could potentially lead to a stroke or heart failure if not taken care of. It is the most prevalent type of irregular heartbeat.

The Apple Watch is still unable to diagnose any condition, but it is equipped to detect an irregular heart rhythm. Because it is worn by the user for longer periods, its sensors could detect the amount of blood flowing through his or her wrists and recognize any abnormalities.

Apple's COO Jeff Williams relays how letters from customers whose lives were affected by the device inspire them to do even more "to help people understand their health." He says that the company hopes to make even more discoveries in heart science while working alongside the medical community.

For now, ECG readings are the most common and reliable way to make an accurate diagnosis on AFib, using hospital or clinic equipment with an ECG reader. The sole portable alternative is AliveCor's Kardia Mobile smartphone app, the only commercially available EKG meter that is now being used as a built-in sensor on the band of the Apple Watch.

Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor of Stanford states, “Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach.”