If you wake up your Apple Watch and find that "your heart is showing signs of an irregular rhythm that suggests atrial fibrillation," it can be a shock. While your watch can send you alerts when a fast or low heart rate is detected, these messages are quite vague, while the alarm can be downright frightening in case of abnormal arrhythmias. So what should you do if you receive one of these AFib notifications?
Before proceeding, we speak a little Heart . During an activity such as As an exercise, the target heart rate is between 1
If you are not active, your resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute, although this may vary slightly depending on your lifestyle. If your heart rate or heart rate regularly drops below the lowest resting heart rate, you may have bradycardia. If your resting heart rate is often higher than 100 beats per minute, this may be a sign of tachycardia. Now, if the upper chambers of your heart beat unusually fast, while the lower chambers beat near the normal, this is an irregular heart pattern or flutter, also known as atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation is a serious but manageable condition and it is the most common type of arrhythmia. But does your Apple Watch actually know when that heart will flutter? How do you know when it becomes a problem? And what could it mean for your health overall?
Note: This article is not intended for diagnosis or medical advice. If you are worried about your health, see a doctor.
How does the Apple Watch measure heart rate?
Your Apple Watch has a built-in optical cardiac sensor that's great for measuring heart activity. The sensor consists of photosensitive photo diode sensors that work in conjunction with a series of green and infrared LEDs.
When you move, especially during exercise, the Apple Watch uses the green lights to measure and keep track of your active heart rate. If you do not move for a while, the IR lights will be used to track your resting heart rate.
Since your wristwatch only looks for irregular heart rhythms during periods of inactivity, we should focus on the IR lights. These LEDs will start as soon as your Apple Watch has detected enough motionless time, and measure your heart rate at the discretion of the watch.
We do not know exactly how often the watch checks your heart rate. However, Apple informs us that it is looking for abnormal heart rates within 10 minutes. If your heart rate becomes irregular during any of these intervals, you will receive a notification.
Where to Find the Irregular Heart Rate Notification History
In many cases, you receive the first alert you receive action. However, if you receive more than one notification or delete the notification from the Notification Center on your Apple Watch, Apple will ensure that you can get it from Health App . This includes notifications about high and low heart rates that you may have received.
To find the notification history, open the Health app and tap the Health Data tab at the bottom. Choose Heart, and tap Irregular Rhythm Notifications. Here's a full list of all the irregular heart rate notifications you've received on your Apple Watch, sorted by the latest.
What could my irregular heartbeat alarm mean?
If the notification of an irregular heartbeat detection is correct, you may have AFib. As mentioned above, AFib is an abbreviation for atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the upper ventricle beats irregularly. As a result, the ventricles, the two main chambers of the heart, receive sufficient blood, which causes the lower chambers of the heart to beat much more slowly.
According to the American Heart Association multiple AFib diagnoses exist:
- Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: This type occurs in short episodes in which your heart rhythm returns to normal within seven days. This can be the result of healing alone or through medical intervention. People with this type usually experience it several times a year, but it is unpredictable and can lead to a more serious stage of atrial fibrillation. Causes can be extreme stress, after a long night of drinking, stimulant medications, caffeine, low potassium levels, low magnesium levels, viral infections, hyperthyroidism and … the list is too long to say it all.
- Persistent Atrial Fibrillation: This type lasts for more than seven days and, as described above, can heal itself by time. It may also require medical help to bring the heart back to normal sinus rhythm. Sometimes this can happen with medication or by low voltage surges (electrical cardioversion) on the heart. Causes may include anamnesis of the above type, hypertension, sleep apnea, alcohol drinking, obesity, extreme stress, lung disease, etc.
- Long-term atrial fibrillation: This type of AFib lasts longer than 12 months and does not go away during this time. Medication and electrical cardioversion may not help. To correct the problem, surgery is likely to be required. A cardiologist may burn certain areas of the heart to restore the heart's electrical system to normal. A pacemaker can help too. Causes can be history with the above types and their causes.
- Permanent atrial fibrillation: This type holds unlimited. No known surgical procedures or electrical shocks can help to cure this, and the only course of action is to take medicines that can normalize the pulse as much as possible to prevent the risk of stroke. Causes can be the history with the types mentioned above and each of their causes.
- Atrial Fibrillation of the Heart Valves: This type is the case when a heart valve is defective. Causes can be problems with an artificial valve if a valve stiffens or if the valve does not close properly and the blood flows in the wrong direction.
- Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation: This type is not caused by a heart valve problem as described above. However, there is no standard definition of this kind agreed by doctors other than what has just been said. Causes include sleep apnea, alcohol, caffeine, high blood pressure, lung problems, extreme stress and hyperthyroidism.
The universal symptom of AFib is a trembling or fluttering heartbeat. Of course, it brings with it a range of other symptoms, such as tiredness, fast or irregular heartbeat, chattering or beating in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety, weakness, fainting, confusion, difficulty exercising, sweating and chest pain or pressure.
Although we conducted our AFib research and Apple Watch AFib notifications, we are not trained medical professionals. We can not offer medical advice to our readers – we can only explain how these notices work and what they could generally do.
The Apple Watch can not be used to diagnose conditions. As Daniel Cantillon Research Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacemaker at the Cleveland Clinic explains:
Digital Health Technology is unbelievable and is changing our world rapidly. Many cardiac rhythm cardiologists, including myself, are already integrating smartphone-based and ECG monitoring data into their practice. At the end of the day these are just tools. Every good tool has its applications and limitations. If you have atrial fibrillation [irregular, often rapid heart rate] you should see a cardiac rhythm cardiologist. If you experience symptoms related to abnormal heart rates, be it fast or slow, you should undergo a medical examination.
That's all that goes with it. If you receive an AFib warning message on your Apple Watch and / or if you notice the AFib symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor.
This article was created by Gadget Hacks during the annual Health & Fitness Special. Read all Health & Fitness series.