How and When to Use an ECG Smart Health Watch
| Reuben Howe
With interest in the latest AUDAR CareMate Health Watches rising, it is an apt time to make users informed about what exactly the ECG component of these devices really measures, how it works, and why / when you should be measuring your ECG. With all the data that Smart Watches can provide it is important to know what each statistic means and how it affects us, as blindly looking over the data won’t achieve improve health on its own!
Find out why to read ECG, what ECG readings can detect and how they work in the first place.
What is EKG / ECG?
To dispel a common misconception, EKG and ECG are in fact the same process. The abbreviation is different only because of the base terms in their respective languages. In English the full term is Electrocardiograph and so becomes ECG. In German the C is a K due to language differences so the abbreviation changes to match!
With that clarified, an ECG/EKG is easily defined and understood at a basic level just through reading the name! An Electrocardiograph is a way of plotting data about the heart.
- “Electro” shows us the data being measured is electronic or concerns electrical signals.
- “Cardio” is a term referring to the heart, and you may have heard the term “Cardiovascular System” used to describe the heart and how it pumps oxygenated blood around your body. Fitness Fans among you probably recognise “Cardio” from the workout routines that involve running, long-distance, and stamina. This is because they exercise the heart and blood flow.
- Finally, “Graph” refers to plotting the data measured onto a specific format; a graph. This creates the distinctive pattern we see in movies and TV whenever someone is in hospital, with one beat below the mid-line and one above.
So, an Electrocardiograph is just a way to measure heart rate and display it, all in one word.
How Does an ECG Work?
It is actually deceptively simple to take that measurement of electrical signals in the heart and display it on a graph. Since the data is all electrical it can be measured through conductive receptors placed on the body. Essentially, you put sticky receptors (Electrodes) onto your body and these pick up the electrical signals being used throughout the cardiovascular system.
Whenever you reach for a high shelf, tap your phone screen or just breathe in and out your body is communicating with itself using electrical signals. You are able to contract muscles to trigger movement and grip because the electrical and chemical signals in your body convey that information.
With that in mind, it makes sense that an electrode can measure the signal and calculate what it was used for. In the case of an ECG the signal picked up tells us when exactly the heart was told to contract. Basically, when your heart beats it receives a unique electrical signal, and by measuring these signals we can accurately measure the beat speed, intensity, and more.
How Does an Apple Watch / Fit Bit / AUDAR Smart Watch Measure ECG?
Given that the above explanation relied on electrodes attached around the body it follows that a Smart Watch could, in fact, have the technology built-in to perform an ECG. The AUDAR E1 for example features a metal plate at the base of the watch face which can be activated with clean, moisturised skin to act in place of those Electrodes from before. By measuring the data and having a screen to display it, the Smart Watch can deliver an Electrocardiograph!
When is ECG Required?
A full ECG Scan with multiple Electrodes may be used for heart abnormalities and blood flow issues. Since it accurately measures heart rate and the energy used by the heart, it can show if the organ is being overworked. This can identify many conditions. Some, but not all, include:
- Arrythmias (Heart Beat Rates Being Irregular)
- Heart Attach History (The Heart Will Behave Differently After Suffering a Heart Attack)
- High Blood Pressure (Related Symptom in Many Conditions)
- Muscular Wastage (Increased Load on the Cardiovascular System as Other Muscles are Weaker)
- Atrioventricular Block (Only Consistent Routine ECG Measurements Can Detect)
Conditions that an ECG can help detect, but not outright diagnose specifically, include:
- Pulmonary Embolism (Can Identify Ventricle Problems Only)
- Angina (Some ECG Graphs Can Suggest Angina but Not All Patients Have Irregular ECGs)
- Coronary Artery Disease (Arteries Are Blocked or Slowed, But Not Always by Enough to Vary EPG Dramatically, Some Have Normal ECG Reading)
When To Use a Smart Watch ECG Reader
As you can see, there are some serious medical applications for an ECG reading. However, an ECG can also be used in a personal setting, for your own reference and records. There are multiple ways to use ECG smart watches for men and women.
Firstly, you can take a regular reading.
The AUDAR App, for example, is able to send a prompt to your Health Watch to take a daily reading, or more frequent if you choose. This will give you a casual point of reference and a general idea of how your heart is behaving that day.
Secondly, you can make a reactive test to symptoms.
For example, if you notice you are breathing more heavily and hear your pulse quicken after going up the stairs when before it was never a problem. Things like this can be one-off, but using a heart rate monitor and recording ECG data during / after the event can help understand the condition.
Thirdly, you can take ECG readings during or immediately after exercising.
This will give a vastly different result to your resting heart rate and so can be a good way to see how your heart and body are handling different scenarios.
When using the AUDAR App with any of their Smart Health Watches you can be automatically reminded to do an ECG, and prompted when vital signs stray to certain limits you have set. This means you can know when to take an ECG without stressing over exact times and forgetting to do one.
Please Note: A normal ECG reading alone done through a Smart Watch is not enough alone to diagnose any of the above issues. However, if you also have other symptoms and notice an abnormality or discrepancy in your day-to-day life (Shortness of breath, fatigue, etc) then contact a GP and make consistent ECG measurements on your health tracker App.
Health Watch for Seniors
These accurate and responsive data collection devices are incredibly useful when you are elderly, or want to look after a vulnerable / elderly relative. The ECG scan being portable and accessible through the watch means even the most technophobic of the population can get a reading. This data is then stored for later viewing. A Blood Pressure Monitor is also built-in to the heart rate watch to give even more data and detail on your health status.
The best way to view an ECG is with the CareMate system. This is a new telehealth system built in to a range of Health Watches that enables remote, wireless communication across the world between a health watch and a “trusted responder”. ECG, heart rate, calories lost, blood oxygen etc can all be measured as normal and the CareMate system will share any abnormalities with the chosen trusted friend or relative.
This means the vulnerable or elderly can be monitored and supported without needing constant in-person supervision. It also means that things like sleep and morning / evening routines are accounted for which could show some health issues that would otherwise be unnoticed.
The App is also completely standalone meaning you can use on your Smart Watch Android devices as well as Apple iPhones. The apk file is also available for manual download from the manufacturers site.
When health devices are concerned there are certain expectations and boundaries that need to be set. No data provided by any health watch (Apple Watch, Samsung, Fit Bit, AUDAR etc) should be taken as prescribed medical advice. These devices give a personal insight and reference points for your general health and can point to conditions, but are not a replacement for a doctor.
Please find below all uses resources to gain a fuller understanding of specific conditions and their relation to EPG.
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