Updated: Jul 22, 2020
In 2017, Stanford University researchers began a study sponsored by Apple that looked at the effectiveness of cardiac apps installed in the Apple Watch. Last month, those researchers published their paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. Previously, though, they had released the study's preliminary results which concluded that, indeed, the Apple Watch was able to accurately detect atrial fibrillation, a condition that can lead to stroke, blood clots and heart failure.
The study enlisted 400,000 volunteers and monitored heart rhythms. Participants who registered an irregular heartbeat were sent ECG patches so the researchers could get a week's worth of data to confirm the condition. Those patches confirmed that 84% of the detected cases were accurate. As the study conclusion stated, "84% is not absolute, but it's certainly high enough to be trustworthy." One can read more about the study here.
In that article, Marco Perez, the study's lead author, said in a statement, "The performance and accuracy we observed in this study provides important information as we seek to understand the potential impact of wearable technology on the health system. What the Apple Heart Study shows us is that atrial fibrillation is just the beginning. We can look ahead to other areas of preventive medicine. Further research will help people make more informed health decisions."
Not all of the heart healthy apps available pertain to ECG, many are fitness apps, which are numerous. Others involve diet and wellness. These apps and their devices could make great gifts this year to the right people. Without unpacking all the fitness apps, here's a rundown of some of the better reviewed other heart healthy apps out this year.
Price: App is free, device is $84
KardiMobile is an app that actually comes with an external EKG measurement device ($84). It bills itself as "the most clinically‑validated personal EKG in the world." While many heart healthy apps don't come with external devices, and certainly an Apple Watch can be used as that device for some, for those looking for more accuracy, the KardiaMobile system may be a great solution. The system stores EKG's on one's phone and can email those results to one's healthcare provider. The app is good for both iOS and Android. Out of almost 1,300 reviews, consumers have given the system a 4.4 out of 5 stars, and it looks like the most recent reviews are consistently 5 stars, which means the maker AliveCor has been attentive to fine-tuning their product.
2. Qardio Blood Pressure Monitoring Made Easy
Price: App is free, QardioArm is $79
QardioArm is a very compact cuff that pairs with an iOS or Android app. One simply puts the device on one's arm, fastens the Velcro strap, and hits the Start button in the app. QardioArm's app does the rest. The reading takes less than 30 seconds, and one's results appear instantly. The app has a few other features, such as reminders one can adjust to be daily or just a few times a week, history, and the ability to integrate with some health data apps. One issue some users may have is that Qardio's app and device isn't compatible with Microsoft HealthVault and some other platforms one might use to log one's other health and medical statistics.
AHA, AMA Urge Widespread Self-Measured Blood Pressure Monitoring American Heart Association Website, June 2020
3. Instant Heart Rate+ HR Monitor
Price: $4.99 for iPhone; free for Android, both with in-app purchases
Subscriptions are $9.99 USD per month or $59.99 USD per year.
Instant Heart Rate transforms one's phone’s camera lens into a heart rate monitor. It can display a reading in less than 10 seconds. Its trusted accuracy makes it a favorite with researchers and cardiologists. One can take one's heart rate in any situation and create a pulse waveform graph, or one can take the app’s StandUp test to measure fatigue and fitness. The app records one's beats-per-minute and let's one annotate the readings so one can track what one is were doing at the time of the test.
Price: Free download with in-app purchases
Monthly: $0.99 per month, Annual: $9.99 per year
CardioVisual is not a monitoring app as much as it is an educational one. The app has 2 versions, one for for everyday users and another for medical professionals, but both feature bountiful libraries of health information for almost every heart condition. It was created by cardiologists as a one-stop destination for learning or sharing everything one needs to know about heart health, from structure to function, condition overviews to treatments, and surgical procedures to heart-healthy lifestyle choices. The Favorite function allows one to bookmark and curate the graphics and videos one may want to revisit.
5. DASH Diet: Doctor Recommended
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Paleo Meal Plan Subscription $0.99, Paleo Meal Plan Subscription $1.99, Paleo Meal Plan Subscription $9.99, Dash Diet Annual Plan $49.99
DASH Diet Plan
Diet apps are nothing new, but the ability to combine a record of one's eating with tips to stay on course with one's DASH diet is something that can be of use to almost anyone who's struggling with keeping one's blood pressure in check. DASH Diet: Doctor Recommended for iOS features the ability to subscribe to much more extensive guidance and meal options while the android version is more limited, however both are free to try.
Price: Free with in-app purchases - Subscriptions range from $14.99 for a month to $299.99 for a lifetime subscription.
One of the things that's become synonymous with heart health are lifestyle choices that promote stress management and Calm will help one “sleep more, stress less, and live better.” This is accomplished through guided meditation, relaxing music and sounds for sleep, videos on mindful movement and stretching, mindfulness classes, and images of nature. The app includes hundreds of programs for beginner, intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes. There are over 100 sleep stories that help lull one into a deep and restful slumber.
BONUS PulsePoint Respond
This app not only makes a great gift, but it can also give the gift of life in the right situation. One may not always be in the right place to get fast help when cardiac problems arise. PulsePoint Respond connects one with CPR-trained people in one's community who are ready to act in a cardiac emergency. It uses one's GPS to notify people in one's area who can respond quickly and put their life-saving skills to use before EMS may arrive. It can help responders find people in distress and also gives directions to the nearest external defibrillator. It's an interesting concept, but so far one that has proven a life saver for some of it's consumers.