Can a Smartwatch Detect Heart Palpitations?

Yes, a smartwatch can detect heart palpitations.

Heart palpitations affect many people. According to a recent study, 16% of people visit their doctors because they’ve experienced palpitations. Although they are often harmless, heart palpitations sometimes indicate life-threatening issues like arrhythmia.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers aren’t just handy for counting steps – they could save your life. According to a Pew Research survey, 1 in 5 people now wear one of these devices. And if your heart suddenly starts beating irregularly, that wristband can catch it in action.

The condition is called atrial fibrillation or AFib, an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to devastating strokes. But many people have no clue when an AFib episode strikes. That’s where smart wearables shine. The EKG and ECG sensors built into watches and fitness bands can detect AFib and create an on-the-spot heart tracing to document it.

Having evidence of AFib means you can get the right treatment to prevent a stroke. Experts estimate up to 20% of strokes are directly connected to undiagnosed AFib. So that stylish timepiece on your wrist might one day save your health and your life – not just count your daily steps and calories. Who knew wearable tech could be so invaluable?

Would you like to learn more about smartwatches and how they detect palpitations, among other health issues? If yes, this article is a must-read. Dig in and take notes.  

Here are some examples of Smartwatches that can detect heart Palpitations:

How do smartwatches track heart palpitations?

Smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Fitbit Sense include sensors that can monitor for heart rhythm issues and palpitations. But how do these tiny wearable devices actually track disturbances in your heartbeat?

Embedded Optical Heart Rate Sensors 

Smartwatches have LED lights paired with photodiodes on the backside to detect blood flow through your wrist. This optical heart rate monitor constantly tracks your pulse and can identify skips, flutters, and other irregularities.

On-Demand EKG Readings

Select smartwatches contain electrodes to take EKG readings on command. When activated, the watch monitors electrical impulses and can provide a tracing showing any rhythm abnormalities. It allows occasional sampling.

Background Heart Monitoring 

Some smartwatches passively check for arrhythmias randomly in the background while you go about your day. This acts like a constant sentinel for problems 24/7.

Algorithms Analyze the Data

Advanced proprietary algorithms analyze the heart rate and rhythm data for patterns associated with different arrhythmias. This processing allows abnormal beats and events to be detected.

User Symptom Logging 

Logging physical symptoms like palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath along with heart data provides more context. Time stamping helps match sensations to rhythm abnormalities.

Notification of Irregularities

If an arrhythmia is detected, the smartwatch sends an alert. Most advise contacting a doctor for evaluation of the findings. The data can be shared through EKG reports and partner apps.

Read Also: Is There a Smartwatch that Monitors Blood Sugar

What Is a Smartwatch with ECG And Its Role

When asked about the capabilities of the latest fitness trackers and smartwatches, associate professor and electrophysiologist at the Department of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai had the following to say:

“I think the capabilities that are the most developed and validated are measuring heart rate as well as blood oxygen levels, and detecting atrial fibrillation. Heart rate is the number of times the heart beats per minute. While what’s considered a normal heart rate varies from person to person, if your resting heart rate is much higher than average, or if your low maximum heart rate is significantly lower than average, this could be a sign of underlying heart disease.”

Some smartwatches have electrocardiogram (ECG) technology. Here’s how ECG works in most wearables. Suppose your smartwatch has in-built ECG features. In that case, it’s supposed to use special sensors to measure your heart rate and rhythm and detect any irregularities.

In most smartwatches, ECG tech relies heavily on LEDs, which illuminate light against the skin. The green light is preferred since green is the opposite of red on the color wheel. Therefore, blood can absorb this light more efficiently.

Can we see AFib on a Fitbit?

Yes, selected Fitbit devices like the Fitbit Sense and Charge 5 have the ability to detect possible atrial fibrillation (AFib), and you can actually see it on your device. 

When a possible AFib episode is detected, the Fitbit app will display a notification. It will provide further details like date, time, and heart rate during the event. The feature passively checks for AFib episodes in the background – no on-demand EKG reading is taken.

Fitbit emphasizes that the AFib notifications are only indicating possible AFib, not making a diagnosis. Any findings should be discussed with your doctor.

Does Fitbit detect atrial flutter?

Well, the short answer is – not directly. Fitbit’s ECG app and passive AFib detection is specifically tuned to identify the irregular heartbeat patterns that occur with atrial fibrillation. It’s looking for randomness and fluctuation, not rapid regularity.

But that doesn’t mean your Fitbit is useless if you experience atrial flutter. The constant heart rate monitoring can definitely spot spikes in your pulse when an episode occurs. I’m talking pulse rates shooting up to like 150-250 bpm sometimes. 

Unlike atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes rapid, regular heartbeats. Seeing those unusually high heart rate readings should prompt you to do an EKG session for a closer look at what’s going on with your ticker. The EKG tracing itself may not scream “atrial flutter!” but could show something’s amiss to discuss with your doc.

And any other physical symptoms you experience during a rapid spike in your Fitbit’s BPM measure, like dizziness or chest pain, are worth logging too. Those can provide your cardiologist valuable context that may point to an arrhythmia like atrial flutter being the culprit.

So while not specifically designed to identify atrial flutter per se, your Fitbit can definitely provide hints that something might be up with your heart rhythm. Consider it more of an early warning system than a definitive diagnostic tool in this case.

Can my Apple Watch detect atrial flutter?

Unfortunately, atrial flutter and AFib behave a bit differently, so the Apple Watch isn’t really designed to spot flutter specifically. Let me break it down…

AFib causes an irregular and chaotic heartbeat, which the Apple Watch notices through its background heart rate monitoring. Flutter, on the other hand, makes the heart beat fast but steadily – not as obviously irregular.

Just like a Fitbit, that doesn’t mean your Apple Watch is useless if you have flutter! If it detects your heart rate steadily spiking up during an episode, that’s a solid sign something’s up.

You can also try taking an ECG reading when symptoms hit to see if anything looks funky on the tracing. Any useful clues are worth sharing with your cardiologist later to get their take.

Can a Smartwatch Save Your Life?

Smartwatches are very popular today. In 2023 alone, experts expect over 300 million of these gadgets to be shipped. One of the reasons why there’s a spike in demand for smartwatches is people have realized they can save lives. And various true accounts support this theory. Take Apple devices as an example.

Here’s an example of a tweet:


Recently, a woman aged 29 claimed that an Apple watch saved her life by detecting severe blood clots in her lungs. The story goes like this. Kimmie Watkins, the lady in question, slept with her smartwatch. One night, while she slumbered, her gadget detected her heart beating at 178 beats per minute, which was significantly higher than usual. So, the device alerted her, and she went to see a doctor, who discovered her condition before it threatened her life.

Apple watches aren’t the only products to be credited with saving lives. Upon turning 40, Rick-lee Wynne received a Samsung smartwatch as a birthday gift from her husband. That small gesture would prove life-saving in the future. According to Rick-lee, she’d started feeling unwell a few months before receiving the gadget. But doctors couldn’t pinpoint her issue. She thanks the wearable for helping her identify an extremely low heart rate and encouraging doctors to fit her with an emergency pacemaker.  

So, if you wonder whether a smartwatch can save your life, the answer is ABSOLUTELY! A good wearable can save your life by detecting life-threatening conditions like heart failure and stroke. With it, you can recognize the early tell-tale signs of such severe problems and seek help before aggravating.

Life-Saving Tips for Smartwatches

Can a Smartwatch Detect Heart Palpitations

If you want your smartwatch to notify you of emergencies at the right time and help save your life, do the following:

  • Buy a gadget with essential features like heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. Also, prioritize using smartwatches with medical alert systems designed to help you call for help quickly.
  • Don’t let your gadget run out of battery. Try to plug it in as often as possible, especially at night, and let the battery acquire a full charge.
  • Enable crucial health monitoring features. Walking around with a smartwatch won’t do you any good if essential specs like heart rate monitoring have been toggled off.
  • If you have a wearable with fall detection, keep it on at all times. Remember, approximately 684,000 people die from falls annually. The fall detection feature in your smartwatch can help you avoid becoming a statistic by detecting whenever you fall and linking you to emergency services whenever necessary.

Final Thoughts

Smartwatches can and do save lives, especially those with ECG sensors. A wearable with this feature can detect when you have an irregular heart rate and alert you immediately. That is a crucial function since an irregular heart rate caused by atrial fibrillation can lead to a stroke.

But to enjoy the life-saving nature of smartwatches, you must own and use a gadget with the right features. These include heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and continuous glucose monitoring. So, before buying a wearable, check for indispensable life-saving specs like the ones mentioned here.