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Few Apple Watch users benefit from AF detection

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Most Apple Watch-wearers will get no benefit from the early atrial fibrillation (AF) detection capabilities of the device, a new study has found.

The Apple Watch can flag up the irregular heart rhythm – however, the typical wearer would not be prescribed the medication given to older people with the condition.

Study author Josh Pevnick, co-director in the division of informatics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said:

“It can cause anxiety for people who it identifies, and if there’s no treatment, then you’re maybe not bringing much benefit.”

Researchers looked at Apple Watch and clinical data of around 1,800 patients in the study, published in Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The study did not look at how many people were alerted to an irregular heartbeat. But they found that only 0.2 per cent of Apple Watch wearers would actually qualify for anticoagulants if AF was flagged up.

Pevnick said:

“If you’re trying to provide some health benefits for people in terms of identifying atrial fibrillation, the key is probably to make sure you identify the right people.

“You may need to go out and seek out the people who would benefit.”

The study highlights how new technology like the Apple Watch has created a new category of younger, healthier people with a potential medical problem.

Pevnick said:

“We’re picking up a different kind of atrial fibrillation.

“It’s different from what has been studied before.”

AF, where the heart beats irregularly and abnormally fast, is a leading cause of stroke around the world.

A study published last week found that reducing stress could help mitigate the condition.

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