Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea and hypertension, study shows

Doris Richards
November 14, 2017

Although it doesn't have a sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure, it might help in determining your blood pressure.

Last May, Cardiogram and UCSF demonstrated the ability of Apple Watch to detect irregularities in rhythmic function of the heart with an impressive 97 percent accuracy. Both of these conditions are common. Seventy percent of the data went to train DeepHeart, teaching it on what to look for when diagnosing sleep apnea and hypertension. In September, the company stated that it's collaborating with Stanford to test the gadget in detecting atrial fibrillation that can lead to heart failure. A study independent of Apple presented in May has already suggested the answer is yes.

The study was a partnership between Cardiogram and the UC San Francisco's Health eHeart Study.

The Apple Watch can accurately detect sleep apnea and high blood pressure, a study found. The research institution provided data from those who used the device and enrolled in the study.

DeepHeart was trained on data from 70 percent of participants, and then tested on the remaining 30 percent who were not used in training, according to Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger. This new study shows the Watch can detect sleep apnea with a 90 percent accuracy and hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy.

Researchers created a customized algorithm called DeepHeart to then interpret the information collected, which was limited to heart rate and daily step counts. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, can be diagnosed by using a home monitoring equipment. So how do Cardiogram's algorithms make good guesses without directly measuring a person's blood pressure or breathing? The system regulates them to keep us alive. In 2003, the ARIC study (N=11,061) showed that those with low heart rate variability were 1.44x more likely to develop hypertension over 9 years.

However, more research is necessary to recommend smartwatch as a tool to predict hypertension and sleep apnea.

More than one billion people globally suffer from hypertension, with 20 percent of these left undiagnosed, the World Health Organization claims. "The study is seeing a correlation and that's important to know, but the value is still unproven for medicine", she says. And remember that the accuracy of heart data of Apple Watch would depend on how you wear it.

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