Wearable fitness trackers are a popular tool people use to reach their fitness goals. With wearable trackers becoming more popular and more advanced in recent years, you may be wondering how useful and accurate these gadgets are in helping people live heart-healthy lives. Eric Krivitsky, MD, a cardiovascular specialist with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group, weighs in on how these devices can improve your heart health.

Fitness trackers use sensors to monitor your bodily functions.

Wearable fitness trackers use sensors to help monitor your movements and other bodily activities. “The typical fitness tracker can monitor the number of steps you take, your sleep cycle and your heart rate – all features that can help you learn more about your heart health,” says Dr. Krivitsky. “With regular use, the data from these trackers can help you understand your fitness level and – in some cases – motivate you to adopt healthier lifestyle habits.”

Fitness trackers can be useful in preventing or monitoring chronic heart conditions.

While most wearable fitness trackers work well at tracking your overall health, only a few have been approved by the FDA for their medical grade, clinically-accurate monitoring capabilities. “AliveCor’s app and products paired with the Apple Watch have been recognized for their ability to monitor changes in heart rhythm related to conditions like atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Krivitsky. “Other fitness trackers can still produce data to help you to monitor chronic conditions that affect your heart, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.”

Wearable fitness trackers are occasionally prone to inaccuracies.

Dr. Krivitsky says that trackers sometimes mistake certain bodily movements as calorie-burning steps when they are not. “The EKG monitors built into some of these trackers can exaggerate your heart rate results. If your tracker picks up heart irregularities, see your primary care doctor or cardiologist so they can do an EKG to determine whether you have a serious heart condition,” he says. “Your doctor can also help you determine your risk for other common heart problems that cannot be detected by fitness trackers alone, such as coronary artery disease and heart attacks.”

Use your fitness tracker to focus on keeping your heart rate as low as possible.

A lower resting heart rate means your body does not have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat, which is good for your long-term health. “To find out what a normal resting heart rate is for you, check your heart rate as soon as you wake up in the morning. For most adults, a normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute,” says Dr. Krivitsky. If your numbers tend to be higher, Dr. Krivitsky recommends focusing on increasing your physical activity and lowering your stress and anxiety levels.

In any case, continue to talk to your doctor about your heart health.

Even with all the advances in wearable fitness devices, Dr. Krivitsky still encourages people to talk with their doctor about their heart health. “We can evaluate any changes you are experiencing and other potential risk factors for heart disease so you can make the right decisions about your health.”

Sources: American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Consumer Reports

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