Researchers Find Smartwatches Can Predict Risk of Heart Failure in Patients

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Smartwatches and other wearable devices can be used to predict a higher risk of developing heart failure and irregular heartbeats later in life. Subscribe to notifications Subscribe to notifications

Wearable devices like smartwatches can predict who is more likely to develop heart failure and irregular heartbeats later in life, according to a recent study by UCL researchers. The peer-reviewed study, published in the European Heart Journal – Digital Health, looked at data from 83,000 patients who had a 15-second electrocardiogram (ECG), a process similar to that used on phones and smartwatches.

The researchers discovered EKG recordings with extra heartbeats, which are often benign but when they occur frequently (irregular heartbeat) can indicate heart failure and arrhythmia.

In this brief record, they discovered that people with an extra beat (one in 25 of the total) had twice the risk of developing heart failure or an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) over the next ten years.

The evaluated ECG recordings were provided by persons between the ages of 50 and 70 with no known cardiovascular disease.

When the heart pump is compromised, you have heart failure. Often it cannot be cured. Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular and often excessively rapid heart rate caused by the abrupt onset of aberrant electrical impulses in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. It can be deadly and cause problems like fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness, and is linked to a five times higher risk of stroke.

According to Dr. Michele Orini of the University College London Institute of Cardiovascular Science, the study’s lead investigator, to help in the early detection and prevention of future heart disease.

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The following phase examines the most effective practical methods for screening people using wearables. A more accurate estimate of population risk and a reduction in the burden of these diseases could result from combining such screening with the use of artificial intelligence and other computational techniques to quickly identify the EKGs that indicate increased risk, as we have done in have done in our study.

Lead author of the study, Professor Pier D. Lambiase of the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and the Barts NHS Health Trust’s Barts Heart Center, explained: Detecting early those at risk of heart failure and arrhythmia would mean that we “We can more effectively assess higher-risk cases and prevent cases by starting treatment early and providing lifestyle advice about the importance of routine, moderate exercise and diet,” said the study’s lead author.

Sensors attached to the skin are used in an EKG to detect the electrical impulses that the heart gives out each time. In clinical settings, at least 10 sensors are positioned all over the body and the recordings are reviewed by a specialist physician for any indication of a potential problem. Consumer wearables are less expensive but can be less precise as they rely on two sensors (single-lead) contained in a single device.

To find recordings with added beats for the new study, the research team used machine learning and an automated computing application. Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) emanating from the lower chambers of the heart or premature atrial contractions (PACs) emanating from the upper chambers were the two categories assigned to these extra beats.

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Two experts then reviewed the recordings classified as extra beats, as well as some recordings that were not, to ensure the categorization was correct.

First, the researchers examined data from 54,016 UK Biobank project participants, with an average age of 58 years, whose health was monitored for an average of 11.5 years after their ECG was recorded. Next, they studied a second group of 29,324 patients with a median age of 64 and a follow-up of 3.5 years.

The researchers discovered that an extra heartbeat from the upper chambers (atria) was associated with a two-fold increase in atrial fibrillation, while an extra heartbeat from the lower chambers (myocardium) was associated with a two-fold increase in later heart failure after adjusting for potentially confounding variables like age and medication intake.