Smartwatches can now Identify COVID-19 Infection days before Symptoms Appear

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Increasing Capabilities of Smart Devices

Smartwatches are becoming as popular as health monitoring devices.  The latest models offer features such as blood oxygen level measurement. A new study from Mount Sinai Health Systems in New York – reported by CBS News – has found that smartwatches capable of continuous or frequent heart monitoring can detect subtle changes in a wearer’s heartbeat. 

These changes can signal the wearer has COVID-19 as early as seven days before the symptoms are felt or the infection can be picked up in testing. The study was carried out on nearly 300 Mount Sinai health care workers with Apple watches between April and September 2020. “Our goal was to use tools to identify infections at the time of infection or before people knew they were sick. We already knew that heart rate variability markers change as inflammation develops inside the body, and COVID-19 is an incredibly inflammatory event,” says Rob Hirten, Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

Monitoring the Changes in Heart Rate

The study showed that the variability in heart rate, viz. the variation in time between heartbeats was different in people with COVID-19 as compared to those without. High heart rate variability indicates that an individual’s nervous system is active, adaptable, and more resilient to stress. Reportedly, almost more than half of the COVID-19 cases are spread by asymptomatic carriers. Thus, if carriers can learn they have COVID-19 without showing symptoms, they can be careful to self-isolate. 

Smartwatches allow users to constantly gather data while it is on the wrist.  The watch retrieves all the data and there is no input required from the wearer. Besides this study, some other studies are also being conducted with a similar aim to find COVID-19 indications as early as possible.



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