Monitoring Heart Health

on December 7, 2017
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Long-time readers of my column will know that I suffered a heart attack in 2012 and underwent a triple bypass. As you can imagine, this was a serious operation brought on by long hours, extensive travel, not eating correctly and minimal exercise over a 25+ year period. The good news is that when the heart attack struck, I knew what was happening and got to the hospital in time for them to stabilize me and start preparing me for open-heart surgery within 36 hours of the actual attack.

But from that point on I was and still am a heart patient. Even though the surgery corrected the main issues with three of my arteries, I am still an at-risk person and have to closely monitor things like blood pressure, cholesterol, heartbeat, etc.
One other thing that could be an issue but hasn’t been so far being something called AFIB, or an irregular heart beat that could lead to other serious issues related to my heart and health. AFIB is the leading cause of strokes and is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year.

Until recently, the only way I could get this tested was to go to my doctor’s office, which I do twice a year and have an EKG which charts my heart rate and looks for any abnormalities such as AFIB. But earlier this year I was sent a product from AliveCor to test. The device has a small mobile device in which I can put my fingers or thumbs on it, and it registers my heart rate in detail and delivers a signal to my iPhone that gives me an actual EKG reading.

This device is FDA approved and allows me to take a personal EKG to check for AFIB or any heartbeat irregularities anytime I want.
This mobile solution also has an important option to get an expert to read the EKG should you see something in the chart that looks different or abnormal. The two options are to have a clinician read it and give feedback for $9.99 or get an actual MD to look at it and advise for $19.99.
Thankfully, all of my readings over the year were normal, and I have not had to call for outside analysis.

On Nov 30, AliveCor introduced a new way to do this in the form of a watch band that is tied to the Apple Watch. While their KardiaMobile reader works well, it is another thing I have to carry with me if I am going to do this daily and especially while on the road. Called the KardiaBBand, it sells for $199 and requires a $99.00 a year subscription, but I consider this a small price to pay for the ability to have early warnings of AFIB and the ability to do an EKG easily and anytime I want. I have been testing the Kardia Band for about a week now, and like the KardiaMobile device, it monitors my heart rate and via the KardiaBand, it gives me an EKG reading on demand. But since I am wearing the band, it is a bit easier than digging out the Kardia Mobile device and using it, which means I can get readings more often to stay on top of my overall heart health.

I realize that this probably will get more attention from an older audience or people with Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure as AFIB is a leading cause of strokes and watching for any changes in EKG readings can and will save lives of high-risk people. However, I have friends who had a stroke in their 20’s and 30’s, and if any heart disease runs in your family, the KardiaMobile reader, which costs $99 or the Kardia Band needs to be considered as part of your overall health monitoring program.

Also on Nov 30, Apple introduced a most important heart study they are doing in conjunction with Stanford that uses the Apple Watch to do a similar EKG like a test to check specifically for AFIB. https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/11/apple-heart-study-launches-to-identify-irregular-heart-rhythms/

Since this is a study it does not need FDA approval but the program does provide a direct contact with a physician should the Apple Watch, through this special study monitoring program, detect any abnormalities in your heart readings. At this point, you will be notified that there might be a problem and they will send a special patch that you wear for seven days to monitor your heart readings 24/7 to get a more concise analysis. If AFIB is detected, they will have you see a Dr or Cardiologist as soon as possible.

According to Apple, “To calculate heart rate and rhythm, Apple Watch’s sensor uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist. The sensor’s unique optical design gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist, and when combined with powerful software algorithms, Apple Watch isolates heart rhythms from other noise. The Apple Heart Study app uses this technology to identify an irregular heart rhythm.”

Apple’s interest in health stems from Steve Jobs own health issues. As he became more in tune with the importance of a person needing to find more proactive ways to impact and monitor their health, he started to make this one of the tenets of Apple’s overall vision. As I have often written over the last few years, Apple is serious about helping their customers staying healthy, and this Heart Study is another sign of that commitment.