My Apple Watch Told Me I Have Afib

And now… the Apple watch.

The Apple Watch and other wearables are now able to monitor your heart rhythm. The Apple watch can detect irregular heart rhythms, and if it does so 5 times, it will prompt you to record your rhythm. And in that way, it can also be used to diagnose atrial fibrillation.

Does that mean that if the Apple Watch says I have an irregular rhythm… that I have Afib?

The simple answer is… Not always.

If you have atrial fibrillation and your risk of stroke is high, then of course it’s a good thing to catch it earlier and get further testing and treatment. However, as any other screening program – where you check healthy people to see if they have signs and symptoms of a disease – using the apple watch to diagnosed Afib may have drawbacks.

The US Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend ECG screening for healthy adults at low risk of heart disease. Essentially, the concern is that patient that do not have a condition may be falsely diagnosed by the apple watch as having an irregular heart rhythm, and end up undergoing series of tests to prove they do or do not have it.

What if it tells you have Afib, what are the chances you do have it?

The majority of people wearing an Apple Watch, have a very low risk of having atrial fibrillation – most owners are 55 or younger.

In that group, the risk of having Afib is low. So, even if the apple watch is wrong only a small percent of time, what ends up happening is that the alerts by the watch will be wrong 45% of the time. This has been estimated by physician-scientist Sekar Kathiresan.

How do you diagnose Afib?

Atrial fibrillation is diagnosed with an analysis of your heart rhythm, done with an ECG (electrocardiogram). This can be done in the clinic, using 10 electrodes for a 12-lead EKG or with monitors that you can take home. There are also implantable monitors, with batteries that last up to 3 years, that can help in some situations.

Rhythm monitors are very important tools for doctors to diagnose Afib, because many patients have episodes of Afib lasting minutes or hours (paroxysmal Afib), and when they see a doctor, they may be in normal rhythm. Therefore, using a monitor for a few days or even weeks (or years with implantable monitors) can help in the quick and appropriate diagnosis of Afib.

So, what should I do if my Apple Watch says I have an irregular heart rhythm?

  • You should contact your primary care physician or cardiologist. Many patients will end up needing evaluation by an electrophysiologist, who is a cardiologist specialized in heart rhythm problems.
  • The first step for most will be to use a patch monitor, which can record your heart rhythm continuously for weeks at a time. And it later can be analyzed for signs of Afib or other irregular heart rhythms. Some patients will need further testing, such as an echocardiogram or stress testing – but that decision is individualized.
  • At The Afib Clinic, our approach is to evaluate patients in an individualized manner, based on their risk of having Afib and strokes. Patients can be evaluated promptly at our Afib Clinic and some patients even chose to be seen from the comfort of their home, using telehealth.

If you would like to learn more about Afib, please check out our website and feel free to contact us to schedule an online or in-person evaluation.

7 response to My Apple Watch Told Me I Have Afib

  1. Jose Rivera says:

    I feel that I have problems with Afib. I suffer from high blood pressure. I test it every day and see the Term Afib often.

  2. Maria Earley says:

    I am 70 years old, was diagnosed with AF in 2013 and have been implanted with a pacemaker. The AF is under control with medications, Pradaxa 110mg and Candesartan 32mg.

    I plan to purchase an Apple Watch SE. Will there be any effect on my AF/pacemaker by wearing an Apple Watch?

    • sheryl slawson says:

      I have a pacemaker and I am dependent on it I have never had a problem and I have had a watch since the first one came out over 7 years ago. I also have Afib

  3. Gary P. Olson says:

    My Apple Watch Series 4 has accurately detected AFIB. The first time I was feeling fine, sitting quietly, and the notification appeared. I happened to have a cardiology appointment the next day, and they confirmed this with an ECG. I had a cardioversion which kept me out of AFIB for a year.

    It caught the next episode when I was exercising, but I knew something wasn’t right. I’ve had two heart attacks, quad bypass, and an ablation for atrial flutter, so I know I am vulnerable to AFIB. This time, the cardioversion only lasted 2 week. This time I had an ablation for AFIB.

    That failed eventually, and they added dofetilide (Tikosyn) once I was in sinus rhythm and I have not had an episode since. I am 74 y/o and do NOT do well in AFIB. I develop signs of heart failure and cannot exercise. I’ve ridden 11,000 miles n my bike since bypass 10 years ago, so not being able to exercise is a big deal for me.

    Bottom line: I will never give up my Apple Watch at this point!

  4. My Apple Watch says I have Afib 40% of the time.
    Tests done by my cardiologist say I have supraventricular tachycardia and I’m taking Metoprolol and a baby aspirin daily with no symptoms. The Apple watch is causing me high anxiety. Why would I rely on anything the Apple watch says?

    • Dave Oakley says:

      I can relate to the anxiety having the notifications can cause. That said, you can silence them and periodically check or use Kardia Mobile regularly. The Apple Watch caught my Afib early when I was asymptomatic. I was in Afib 7 months 24/7 on my way to getting ablation. I turned off the notifications and watch he HRV numbers from my watch which told me I was in Afib without alerts every two hours. IMO the watch saved my quality of life catching Afib early when I was asymptomatic. I’ll always wear one for sure.

  5. Dave Oakley says:

    I developed Afib as a result of Covid. The Apple Watch told me when I was still asymptomatic. Cardiologist visit confirmed my Afib and went through tests to determine best course of action. Without symptoms the timeline to treat was left more to my calendar than to urgency. Set it for June 2023 (in Jan) and ended up developing symptoms beginning in March and worsening to a very problematic level by end of May. I absolutely LOVE my Apple Watch for catching this early. If I had waited for symptoms to trigger my actions, I’d be months away from relief.

    For all the debate about whether they work, EVERY professional in the cardiovascular community I met believes in the merit of these devices, all wear them.

    Afib cases can be wildly different. I’d be careful thinking you have a nothing burger and then finding out via stroke.

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