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Can the Apple Watch help to prevent stroke?

“Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm abnormality in adults and causes up to 25% of all strokes.”

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A multimillion-dollar grant has been awarded to researchers on a study which focuses on preventing stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. This study will use an app on Apple Watch in order to monitor an irregular heartbeat in the hopes of reducing patients’ reliance on blood-thinning medication.

Lead investigator of the study, Richard Becker, says: “The individualised and precision-based care of patients with conditions affecting the heart has long been a goal for clinicians.”

Co-investigator Alex Costea, says: “Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm abnormality in adults and causes up to 25% of all strokes.

“Anticoagulants are considered a standard of care to prevent atrial fibrillation-associated strokes. While effective medications are available, bleeding can occur, and treatment is often recommended for extended periods of time, in some patients indefinitely.”

The $37 million, seven-year study, known as the Rhythm Evaluation for AntiCoagulaTion (REACT) will aim to recruit 5,400 patients at 70 sites across the United States starting in March 2023.

This study will use the heart health features on Apple Watch, through contribution from Apple, they will also provide guidance on the development of the study application.

By using the app on an Apple Watch and an accompanying iPhone app, patients in the study will be able to target blood-thinning medication use for. Limited period and only in response to a prolonged episode of atrial fibrillation, meaning personalised care will be unique to each patient involved.

Becker says: “The use of anticoagulants to prevent AFib-associated stroke is recommended whether a person has intermittent AFib, also known as paroxysmal AFib, or permanent AFib.

“The use of anticoagulants to prevent AFib-associated stroke is recommended whether a person has intermittent AFib, also known as paroxysmal AFib, or permanent AFib.”

According to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans with atrial fibrillation is set to reach more than 12 million by 2030. 

Atrial fibrillation also leads to more than 454,000 hospitalisations each year in the United States, resulting in 158,000 deaths.

The CDC further reports that the death rate from atrial fibrillation as the primary or contributing cause of death has been on the rise for more than two decades, with this trend expected to continue.

To conclude, Becker says: “We look forward to actively participating in REACT and being a part of innovative solutions that benefit patients in our community and around the globe.”

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