You just can’t argue how big of a push Apple has made in the last couple of years to make health a cornerstone of its products. From helping people lose weight, to saving pregnancies, to preventing heart attacks, the Apple Watch has become synonymous with personal trainer, health coach, to all-around health and fitness champ.
Of course, your Apple Watch should never take the place of a doctor or other health professional, but the health features it’s gained over the years are truly impressive. With the announcement of the Apple Watch Series 5 (which is available for pre-order right now) and WatchOS 6 (available to download on September 19), here are five ways your Apple Watch can help you — or potentially even save your life.
1. Warn you of loud noise to protect against hearing damage
Most of the time, people only seek care for hearing loss after it’s too late. This is because hearing loss occurs gradually, due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Apple hopes to fight back against environmental factors with its Noise app, a feature for Apple Watch that detects loud noise (above 90 decibels) and pings you with a notification about the risk of hearing loss.
You can get the Noise app on September 16, when WatchOS 6 rolls out to Apple Watches.
2. Track your menstrual cycle
Keeping tabs on your menstrual cycle is important for understanding your overall health: Irregular cycles can potentially detect conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, osteoporosis, and the transition to menopause.
Like the Noise app, Cycle Tracking is available on September 16 when iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 roll out to everyone.
3. Detect falls and call for help
When Apple Watch Series 4 came out with its fall detection feature, people giggled about those old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials on TV. But falling is no laughing matter for people who really can’t help themselves up: People have credited this feature with saving their lives since its debut.
The feature works by sounding an alarm if you fall and sending you a push notification asking if you’re okay. If the watch doesn’t detect any movement, it calls emergency services and predesignated emergency contacts for help.
4. Alert you if you have an abnormal heart rhythm
There’s been mixed reviews from both consumers and experts about Apple Watch’s ECG app since its release on the Apple Watch 4 in 2018. The app detects atrial fibrillation (AFib), one of the most common abnormal heart rhythms, via a 30-second test. These irregular heartbeats aren’t always medically dangerous, but they can lead to complications like stroke, blood clots and even heart failure.
WatchOS 6 also occasionally checks your heart rate with its automatic heart rate sensor, and will send you an alert if it notices anything abnormal. If you get an AFib notification from your Apple Watch, you should check in with your doctor.
5. Detect high and low heart rate
Similar to the AFib feature, Apple Watch can also detect high heart rates (tachycardia) and low heart rates (bradycardia). First, you need to manually enter what would be high and low heart rates for you in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone (instructions here). If your watch detects heart rates above or below those ranges, it’ll notify you.
Some researchers and medical professionals worry that this feature can result in false alarms. For example, very fit people often have lower-than-normal resting heart rates, which can trigger a notification. Even if this is the case, something is better than nothing — my personal take on the heart rate detection feature is that a few false alarms is beyond worth a single life saved.
Bonus: Compile your health data for research
Apple announced at its September 10 iPhone event that Apple Watch and iPhone owners can soon join three massive research studies via the new Research app (available later this year). The studies will look at hearing health, women’s health and heart health, and they’re being conducted with some of the world’s largest health organizations.
The benefit to you? By sharing your data with medical researchers, you can contribute to future generations of healthcare and health technology — Apple Watch’s irregular heartbeat feature was informed and validated by the Apple Heart Study, the first virtual large-scale study of its kind.
We expect these new studies to eventually inform new Apple Watch and iPhone health features.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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