Apple Heart Study launches to identify irregular heart rhythms

Apple today launched the Apple Heart Study app, a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib, the leading cause of stroke, is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year. Many people don’t experience symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed.

To calculate heart rate and rhythm, Apple Watch’s sensor uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist. The sensor’s unique optical design gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist, and when combined with powerful software algorithms, Apple Watch isolates heart rhythms from other noise. The Apple Heart Study app uses this technology to identify an irregular heart rhythm.

“Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have AFib. These stories inspire us and we’re determined to do more to help people understand their health,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO, in a statement. “Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.”

The app uses Apple Watch’s heart sensor to collect data and will notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation.
The app uses Apple Watch’s heart sensor to collect data and will notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation.

Apple is partnering with Stanford Medicine to perform the research. As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm is identified, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring. The Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.

“Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach,” said Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study.”

Doctors and medical researchers around the world have been using iPhone and Apple Watch to revolutionize medical studies. Apps created with Apple’s ResearchKit platform, a software tool researchers use to conduct studies, have produced insights and discoveries about conditions like autism and Parkinson’s disease at a pace and scale never seen before. To date, Apple’s ResearchKit and CareKit platforms have been used by over 500 researchers and more than three million participants.

MacDailyNews Take: Another important development that further separates Apple Watch from the stupidwatches of the world.

AliveCor’s Kardiaband EKG reader becomes first Apple Watch accessory to win FDA approval as a medical device – November 30, 2017
Apple Heart Study could turn Apple Watch into a ‘must have’ for millions of patients – September 12, 2017
Apple Watch the most accurate heart rate monitor in new fitness tracker study – May 24, 2017
Apple Watch helps doctors detect the leading cause of heart failure with 97% accuracy – May 12, 2017
Apple patents advanced heart rate monitor for Apple Watch – October 6, 2016
Apple Watch heart rate data vs. Mio dedicated heart rate monitor – May 7, 2015


  1. I’ll be jumping on this if only to finally spur someone to care about false positives I get from my watch. Finally turned off the rhythm monitor after three separate notifications of irregularity over a period of months – all while I was not even wearing the watch. I have also seen its green lights firing out of the bottom while the watch is resting on a table. Apple have not responded and I don’t see much on the interweb of others’ complaints but anomalies in an important study gives me hope they might restore my confidence.

  2. I need all the heart help I can get after almost kicking off last month when pulse dropped to 20 beats a minute. Also had 90% block on main artery! Whew, pacemaker and stent installed. Maybe I use Ethyl’s Apple Watch, except ridiculous fibromyalgia makes it hard to wear anything. Oh me…

  3. How are these data interpretations communicated to the user or physician?

    Is there an audible alarm? What is the user is sleeping? What about deaf people?

    Of course, this device is useless if not attached to the user. How long can the device be used before requiring recharge?

    1. There are alarms you can setup if your heart goes above 100bpm (configurable) AFTER you have been at rest for a set amount of time.

      This would be invaluable.. but.. The Apple API for notifications seems to have no way to let “my heart is out of control” be set to a crazy high alert and NOT have “you have a text” set at the same level.

  4. You can check for AFib with two devices from AlivCor. Both use bluetooth to talk to your watch or iphone.

    Kardia Band is a wrist band for the Apple Watch. When you think you might be having an event you press your fingers to electric conducting pads on the band and a single channel ECG/EKG is performed with a “you may be in AFib” message, or “Normal Sinus Rythm”. This device is not approved for sale in the U.S.

    The other product from AlivCor is Kardia Mobile. This device works only with your iPhone. Hold two fingers on head hand against the device – tight against the back of the phone for 30 seconds. Last month it accurately predicted I was in AFib. I could have had a stroke. The Kardia Mobile is $99 ($80 at Amazon). The FDA does allow this to be sold in the USA with one caveat: the first time you use the device a “living breathing cardiologist” must provide an analysis for you. Read that again.. .. in another way. At my Cardiologist office, a 32 channel ECG/EKG with personal checkup is about $800. You get blood thinner drugs samples for free and of course is desired. But.. think about it.. For $80 you can get a cardiologist for a “1 channel peek”. With that $800 bill you could get eight $80 devices and eight $800 checkups (not really but you get the point). US only. Other countries do not have to provide the one time free cardiologist review.

    You can pay to have someone at AlivCor check as well. A subscription service can keep a store of your tests.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.