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Apple, Stanford use green LED to measure heart rate

Apple, Stanford use green LED to measure heart rate

Dec 6, 2017: Apple is working with Stanford Medicine researchers on a research study to determine whether the Apple Watch’s heart-rate sensor can identify irregular heart rhythms associated with a condition known as atrial fibrillation.

The Apple Heart Study app was launched Nov. 30. As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm is observed, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiograph patch for additional monitoring.

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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. “Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.”

Each year in the United States, atrial fibrillation causes 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations. It can lead to blood clots and is a leading cause of stroke, but many don’t experience symptoms, so it often goes undiagnosed.

The sensor in the Apple Watch uses LED lights to measure heart rate. The technology can also monitor the pattern of the heartbeat. The app uses this technology combined with software algorithms to identify an irregular heart rhythm.

“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, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.

Doctors and medical researchers around the world have been using iPhone and Apple Watch to study various aspects of health. To date, Apple’s ResearchKit and CareKit platforms have been used by over 500 researchers and more than 3 million participants.

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