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How do heart rate watches work?

Health monitoring is undergoing a bit of a revolution in recent years for two main reasons: Firstly, Telehealth and remote monitoring are being funded by health services around the world. Secondly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are on the rise and being experimented with to provide data analysis for health data.

For you and me that bigger picture goes over our heads, the upshot is that there are actually a few different ways to measure heart rate in 2024 and therefore more than one type of heart rate monitor.

Learn more about the tech and which is best for you!

2 Types of Heart Rate Monitor

Heart Rate Watches

Heart rate watches are the most common way for a normal customer to independently access a heart rate monitor. These devices are often incorporated into smart watches or sometimes just a thin health tracker wristband with no other features.

A wrist watch with heart rate monitor will tend to use an LED-based scanner, which can provide constant updates on heart rate in real time by shining light from the underside of the watch onto your skin, and measuring the reflected light for various anomalies.

Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap

An ECG Patch or chest strap is a more advanced, more unwieldy monitor which relies on physical contact with the skin. These are secured under your shirt often for a set 24 hours at a doctor's request. These monitors actually don't measure heart rate directly like the watches, but instead perform a more advanced electrical-based measurement called ECG. An electrocardiograph (ECG) is a more detailed measurement on the opening and closing of heart valves, which in turn can be inferred into a heart rate.

Heart Rate Monitor Type Benefits

A heart rate watch will behave wildly differently if it is an electrical sensor (ECG) or LED sensor (PPG) measuring your heart rate. For this reason, not all hear rate watches work the same way!

An ECG watch will need skin contact on moisturised, clean skin for up to 2 minutes to perform an electrical measurement and provide that one heart rate reading. This can make ECG less reactive and immediate in a smart watch compared to a wearable like a patch or chest strap.

A PPG watch will need to be worn around the wrist for the LED to face your skin, but does not need dedicated contact for a set period. The LED will measure over a minute or so, and provide a reading at the end entirely automatically. This can make PPG a better choice for every-day use.

The Latest PPG Watch

If you decide that the way a PPG heart rate watch works is better for you than the clunkier ECG, then the latest AUDAR Health watch, E2, is perfect. This is a great heart rate monitor for seniors as it works entirely remotely with minimal input from the user, all using PPG sensors to take unintrusive and comfortable readings every single hour.

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