Apple and Stanford are launching a joint study to identify irregular heart rhythms. The research is being collected through a new Apple Heart Study app. The first-of-its-kind research study uses the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms. In doing so, it can notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
As Apple explains, irregular heart rhythms are detected using the Apple Watch’s sensor, which uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to identify the amount of blood flowing through the wrist.
From here, the sensor gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist, and when combined with software algorithms, Apple Watch isolates heart rhythms from other noise.
In the event there is a problem, participants receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, plus a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring.
According to Apple COO Jeff Williams:
Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have AFib. These stories inspire us and we’re determined to do more to help people understand their health. Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.
AFib is the leading cause of stroke and is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. every year. Tests and research studies such as this could make it easier for people to detect when they are in AFib, even when they don’t have symptoms.
To get started, download the Apple Heart Study app from the App Store and follow the directions. You must have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later join the research study. Open to U.S. residents 22 years and older only.