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Smart Watch Approved for Detecting Atrial Fibrillation

One out of every 50 Australians deals with atrial fibrillation (AF).1 This condition involves an irregular – often rapid – heartbeat leading to poor blood flow.

The heart’s chambers beat out of coordination with each other. AF may lead to reduced exercise tolerance, sometimes without being detected. It may have no symptoms, but symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and fainting.  Moreover, AF leads to increased risk of heart failure, heart disease, stroke, and sudden death.3 Treatment may include exercise therapy, drugs, electrical shock, and ablation surgery.

Early Detection of Atrial Fibrillation

It is estimated that about half of AF cases go undetected. Patients often ignore the symptoms. They are not aware the symptoms could be a sign of potential cardiac abnormalities. This is important because early treatment can improve outcomes. The longer a heart is out of rhythm, the greater the risk it will work harder, change shape, and lead to congestive heart failure.4  

Smart Watches that Detect Atrial Fibrillation

Amazingly, our smart watches just got smarter. Google has conducted a very large study with their Fitbit smart watch to see if it can predict AF.5 The Fitbit has long been able to produce data on demand that patients can share with doctors. One study has shown that wrist-worn heart monitors are fine for recreational use, but not as accurate as standard EKG or chest-worn monitors.6 However, Google’s most recent study showed that their new algorithm can detect AF with sufficient reliability. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved it for Australian use. The interesting part of the new algorithm is that it monitors the user’s health passively. The user will not have to do anything to initiate a test.


  1. Diouf I, Magliano DJ, Carrington MJ, Stewart S & Shaw JE 2016. Prevalence, incidence, risk factors and treatment of atrial fibrillation in Australia: The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) longitudinal, population cohort study. International Journal of Cardiology 205:127–32.
  2. Atwood JE, Myers JN, Tang XC, Reda DJ, Singh SN, Singh BN. Exercise capacity in atrial fibrillation: a substudy of the Sotalol-Amiodarone Atrial Fibrillation Efficacy Trial (SAFE-T). American Heart Journal. 2007 Apr 1;153(4):566-72.
  3. Odutayo A, Wong CX, Hsiao AJ, Hopewell S, Altman DG, Emdin CA. Atrial fibrillation and risks of cardiovascular disease, renal disease, and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2016 Sep 6;354.
  4. Ahmed N, Zhu Y. Early detection of atrial fibrillation based on ECG signals. Bioengineering. 2020 Mar;7(1):16.
  5. Lubitz SA, Faranesh AZ, Atlas SJ, McManus DD, Singer DE, Pagoto S, Pantelopoulos A, Foulkes AS. Rationale and design of a large population study to validate software for the assessment of atrial fibrillation from data acquired by a consumer tracker or smartwatch: The Fitbit heart study. American Heart Journal. 2021 Aug 1;238:16-26.
  6. Wang R, Blackburn G, Desai M, Phelan D, Gillinov L, Houghtaling P, Gillinov M. Accuracy of wrist-worn heart rate monitors. JAMA Cardiology. 2017 Jan 1;2(1):104-6.



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