Apple Watch ECG saves NH man from serious heart problem

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Apple health care
The electrocardiogram built into his Apple Watch 4 was the best gift a NH man received last year.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

A Christmas gift may have saved a New Hampshire man’s life. The ECG built into Barry Maden’s new Apple Watch 4 detected a heart problem.

A problem severe enough that the treatment included stopping his heart.

Maden actually wanted the Apple Watch for its fall detection capability. “He originally got it because they have a new fall risk app where, if he were to fall and I’m not nearby, the fall sensor will sense that he fell and call 911,” his wife, Tara Maden, told WMUR.

Apple Watch ECG to the rescue

But when the man tried the electrocardiogram (ECG) built into the wearable, he was told he was in atrial fibrillation (AFib) — the most common form of irregular heart rhythm. The problem brings an increased risk of heart failure and stroke.

Maden went to a hospital where he was tested with a full ECG which confirmed the malady. He was later sedated so his heart could be stopped then restarted to fix the irregular beat.

ECG functionality is enabled by electrodes in the Apple Watch’s back crystal and Digital Crown. When a user places their fingertip on the latter, it forms a circuit that allows the Watch to read their heart’s rhythm in just 30 seconds. It requires watchOS 5.1.2 which was released in early December.

Maden isn’t the first to have an Apple Watch detect his AFib. It’s not known how many other people have similar stories that haven’t made the news.