Can You Wear a Fitness Tracker With a Pacemaker

No. It’s not recommended to wear a fitness tracker with a pacemaker because of some chances of interference. If you have to wear them together, then you have to follow some precautions.

Fitness trackers are great for monitoring your activity levels and heart health. But if you have a pacemaker or implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), you may wonder if wearing a fitness band or smartwatch poses any risks of interference. 

Let’s take a look at what’s known about any interactions:

Fitness Trackers vs. Pacemakers

Feature Fitness Tracker Pacemaker
Primary Function Track physical activity, monitor health metrics Regulate heart rhythm and treat heart conditions
Health Monitoring Tracks steps, heart rate, sleep, etc. Constantly monitors heart rhythm and adjusts as needed
Activity Tracking Tracks exercises, calories burned, and provides activity insights Primarily focused on cardiac functions
Connectivity Syncs with smartphones for data analysis and notifications May have remote monitoring capabilities
Implantation Worn as a wristband or clip-on device Surgically implanted under the skin near the heart
Medical Use Primarily for fitness and wellness Used for medical treatment and heart conditions

Modern pacemakers and ICDs are quite complicated. They are life-sustaining pieces of technology that monitor your heart rhythms and deliver electrical pulses when needed. Fitness trackers also rely on advanced sensors and electronics. 

Global Cardiac Pacemakers Market 2023 to 2027

So it’s natural to question if they can coexist safely.

Most cardiologists and device makers say fitness trackers pose interference risk to modern pacemakers or ICDs. But with manufacturers just starting to test some wearables specifically, there are some common sense implications, and we are going to look at them.

Do Fitness Trackers Interfere with Pacemakers – What Does the Research Say?

Yes, they do. Recent evidence suggest that it’s not a good idea to use a fitness tracker if you have a pacemaker.

New research published in Heart Rhythm suggests that smartwatches and fitness trackers may interfere with and disrupt the functioning of implanted cardiac devices like pacemakers and defibrillators. 

While wearable devices have become popular for conveniently tracking health metrics, the study indicates they could also pose risks for people relying on pacemakers or ICDs due to electrical interference.

Researchers tested cardiac resynchronization therapy devices from three top manufacturers while applying the electrical current used in bioimpedance sensing – a technology that emits a tiny electrical charge into the body to determine metrics like body composition and stress levels. 

“Bioimpedance sensing generated an electrical interference that exceeded Food and Drug Administration-accepted guidelines and interfered with proper CIED functioning,” said lead investigator Benjamin Sanchez Terrones, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah.

Although the results were based on simulations, Terrones emphasized they demonstrate the potential for disrupted pacing or unnecessary shocks from excessive electrical interference. He stated that “Our findings call for future clinical studies examining patients with CIEDs and wearables.”

Previous research has looked at interference between electronics like smartphones and implanted devices due to magnetic fields. But the rise of wearable technology has created issues that require more objective safety evaluations, according to the researchers. They stated this is the first study looking at the risks from bioimpedance sensing specifically.

Other cardiologists commented that they have not personally seen cases of smartwatch interference with pacemakers clinically, but the simulated results warrant further research. While previous studies did not find problems, the new results are concerning enough that more patient-based studies are needed to determine if it translates into real-world risks.

Should You Monitor Your Electronic Devices?

Nancy Mitchell, a registered nurse and medical writer, told Healthline that with patients becoming more engaged in managing their health through wearable devices, she could foresee potential issues arising as these devices become more advanced. 

She explained that since both pacemakers and smartwatches rely on emitting electric charges to function, the concern is that “Smartwatches could potentially exceed the FDA-approved threshold for these voltages which, in turn, could impair the performance of pacemaker implants.” 

Excess voltage from smartwatches could manifest as unexpected shocks which would provoke anxiety in patients unaware of the cause, according to Mitchell. She added that the interference risk would likely depend on individual biometrics – certain devices may be problematic for some patients but not others.

Dr. John Higgins stated he does not recommend those with implanted cardiac devices use bioimpedance-based activity trackers due to the potential electrical interference suggested by this research. He advised patients to keep wearables at least 6 inches from the chest and avoid wearing them while sleeping. 

Higgins said that developing alternative wearable technologies that don’t rely on magnets or modifying implanted devices to better shield against interference may eventually be needed to address this issue as wearables grow more complex and powerful.

The Verdict

Based on current knowledge and precautions, wearing a fitness tracker along with a pacemaker seems not a good idea, and you should avoid it altogether. Recent research and investigation identified possible electrical interference between wearables and implanted cardiac devices using simulated models. 

More comprehensive clinical research is now required to fully evaluate if the day-to-day use of consumer trackers poses any substantive risks of disrupting r pacemaker or ICD functioning for patients