Worried about your heart….

If you are worried about your heart, go to the doctor.  If there is no cause found, go back to your doctor if you are still worried.  However, you might want to bring more information with you.  Smart watches can help, but most are designed as fitness devices and not medical devices.  Reviewing the medical literature, quite a few smart watches have been tested in the clinical environment.  

If I am asked to recommend a device for checking your heart, I ask two questions:

  • What do you want to check for?

 – usually Heart Rate changes and/or Blood Pressure

  • What is your budget?

If someone has had palpitations and gone to their doctor to get checked more than once, and no cause has been found, I recommend the Alivecor device (£99 for the device and then an optional monthly fee if you want Alivecor to analyse your data).  The Alivecor has been reviewed by the UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) NICE Alivecor).  Many doctors will review these results as validated basic ECG results.  If you feel palpitations, you put your finger on little pads, they record an ECG and send it to your phone (see Heart Rate versus ECG).

If you want to consider your heart rate and heart rate variability, I suggest the Fitbit Charge (€130), the Nokia HR (€160) or Apple Watch (€279 or €379: starting prices – depending on the model).  I am not saying they are the best, but they are well-established, significant research support and reputations to protect.  The Nokia is part of suite of devices including blood pressure, temperature, weighing scales (offering body fat and hydration info and trending of weight changes).  The Apple watch is an ecosystem of apps by many developers interfacing with many devices.

Well established fitness watches such as Polar and Garmin are also highly recommended.

I have also purchased wrist bands at around €20 online that measure heart rate and send it to your phone.  These work fine but there is little or no validation of them and sometimes the battery life can be short.  If you are worried and on a tight budget, these devices might still offer valuable information.

For blood pressure measurements – its very important to put on the cuff properly  (sit for a few minutes before taking blood pressure – make sure the cuff is propoerly aligned and at the same height as your heart).  It is also most useful if these devices record results to an app so that you or your doctor can see changes.  The Nokia blood pressure monitor is great, it costs about €100, is very easy to use, small, simple and sends the results to your phone for trending.

You can check up to date information on the literature yourself:

  • do a google search for “google scholar”;
  • select “google scholar”;
  • select recent years on the left of the screen;
  • enter the wearable or smartwatch you want to check for publications in the search bar.