Our smartwatch could detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study reveals

New study shows how Apple Watch can be used to detect sleep apnea & hypertension

The world's most valuable company crammed a lot into the tablespoon-sized volume of an Apple Watch. It comes with a Global Positioning System, cellular connectivity, and heart rate sensor, among others.

The study, shared today at the American Heart Association meeting in Anaheim, reveals that the Apple Watch is capable of detecting sleep apnea with 90 percent accuracy and hypertension with 82 percent accuracy. Both of these conditions are common. It often goes undiagnosed and is a leading cause of daytime sleepiness.

The new study adds to evidence that the right algorithms might transform the Apple Watch from personal trainer to personal physician. A study independent of Apple presented in May has already suggested the answer is yes. UCSF provided data from more than 6,000 Apple Watch users enrolled in a study on mobile health.

A research team at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found that the Apple Watch could be a useful diagnosis tool for high blood pressure and sleep apnea if paired with an app developed by Cardiogram. The research institution provided data from those who used the device and enrolled in the study.

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"Checking for sleep apnea is not part of your routine doctors visit", said Ballinger.

DeepHeart was trained on data from 70 percent of participants, and then tested on the remaining 30 percent who were not used in training, according to Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger.

The study authors wrote that the algorithm could offer a "surprisingly good prediction of hypertension and sleep apnea given that its only inputs are heart rate and step count".

Cardiogram's engineers took the kind of artificial neural networks that Google and others use to turn our speech into text and adapted them to interpret heart-rate and step count data. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, can be diagnosed by using a home monitoring equipment. The connection comes via your autonomic nervous system, which links your heart with your brain, stomach, esophagus, liver, intestines, pancreas, and, importantly, your blood vessels (Fig 1). "The difficulty with this is, if you have sleep apnea you are likely to develop heart disease and develop abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation". The app would advise that the wearer should get tested and it would not propose that the person has one of those conditions.

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