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How the Apple Watch has saved people’s lives, Gaurav Ramasani

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

The Apple Watch is a smartwatch made by Apple. It is mainly supposed to be a companion for your iPhone, but nowadays, they have been focusing on health and fitness. There have been a lot of incidents where the Apple Watch has come in handy, especially in noticing abnormalities in people’s bodies. In this article, I am going to explain the history of the Apple Watch’s technology for health and fitness and how it has saved a lot of people’s lives.

To start off, the Apple Watch has been out for 5 years now, and has seen much needed changes and improvements to their health and fitness features. For example, on the newly released Apple Watch Series 6, they are now including a blood oximeter, which measures the oxygen in your blood, a spectacular achievement for a wearable device. This is especially needed in these times, since maintaining high blood oxygen is very important to keep yourself safe from COVID-19. To start off with the basics, the Apple Watch can measure many things, such as detecting falls, ECG, heart rate, and now for the first time in a wearable device, blood oxygen. To start, let’s talk about the part that measures the heart rate: the optical heart sensor. The way it works is like every other heart rate sensor: it uses green LEDs and infrared lights paired with photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your body. Whenever your heart beats, it will pump the blood into your body, giving out a greater result than in between your heartbeats. It can help people by telling them if their heart rates are too high or too low. Here is a summary of a testimonial from a person named Heather Hendershot, who is 27 years old, and how the Watch helped her find a serious condition: she said that the Apple Watch detected that her heart rate was too high. She wasn’t doing anything intensive, nor did she actually feel an accelerated heart rate. She went to the hospital to find out what exactly happened and took flu and strep throat tests. Both came back negative, but then the doctors mentioned that they were trying to go ahead and perform an examination with an ICU. It wasn’t until then that she was diagnosed with a serious condition: hyperthyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland produces an extravagant amount of thyroid hormones. If it weren’t for the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor and the notifications, things would have gone very wrong for Heather.

Now let’s move on to the ECG. It uses a new electrical heart sensor included inside Apple Watch Series 4, 5, and 6. The electrical heart sensor is also paired to an electrode in the Digital Crown of the aforementioned models. They sense the electrical impulses generated by the heart’s sinoatrial (SA) node. This can be a very useful feature because it can detect one of two types of rhythms: sinus rhythm, which is a normal rhythm named after the SA node, and atrial fibrillation, which shows an irregular heart rhythm and can be very dangerous for your health. Here is another summary of a testimonial from a person named Jason Saucier, who is 45 years old; he found out he had atrial fibrillation one morning. However, he ignored that warning and went straight to work. When one of his coworkers had told Jason that he was really pale, that’s when he decided to go to the ER. While he was there, the doctors had said that he was close to getting into cardiac arrest. They kept him there overnight until he was rid of the condition and he was sent back home. However, the same notification popped up on his watch again exactly one week later, saying he had atrial fibrillation. He came back from work and couldn't catch his breath. Alarmed, he decided to go to the ER right away. The doctors kept him in the hospital for about 3 days this time and gave him a new medication for his heart. This is another one of the examples on how the Apple Watch has been saving people’s lives, and it can really simplify every detail of a measurement so you can understand how things work.

Getting to fall detection, it is an especially useful feature for elders or impaired people. It uses a gyroscope and accelerometer to sense up to 32 gs of force. As a result, it can sense one of three motions: a fall, which is sensed as a direct trajectory to the ground; a trip, which is sensed as an arc trajectory from wherever you are standing; and finally a slip, which is sensed as a circular trajectory. All of these are typical motions of how we injure ourselves by falling. Here is another summary of a testimonial from a person named Torav Østvang, who is 68 years old: one day, in February 2019, he was hanging out with his friends. After that, he went home to go to bed. He decided to wear his Apple Watch during bed time to test out a sleep-tracking app. However, things go bad, and he takes a hard fall off of his bed. Moments later, he wakes up and has no memory of the fall. He specifically says, “The first thing I remember was lying in bed, having a terrible pain in my head. I touched my face and felt blood.” Another incident happened when he got up from bed to walk to the bathroom. Sometime later, he experienced a sudden fall in blood pressure and fell face first onto the bathroom floor. The fall was recorded by the Apple Watch, and after detecting 1 minute of immobility, it sent out an emergency call to the emergency personnel. He said, “Nobody heard my fall. My friend and wife didn’t hear anything about it until the police came to their door.” The police and paramedics took him to a nearby hospital, and recorded that Torav had three fractures on his face and his chin bone had been pressed in. Another great thing done by the Apple Watch, combining the quick response from the emergency personnel and the Apple Watch’s fall detection services.