Our smartwatch could detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study reveals


A research team at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found that the Apple Watch could be a useful diagnosis tool for high blood pressure and sleep apnea if paired with an app developed by Cardiogram. And using the special DeepHeart neural network, it was able to detect hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy and sleep apnea with 90 percent accuracy. This new study will have a big impact in medicine by somehow eliminating all the need of physical check-up for the diagnosis of hypertension and sleep apnea [which are both common but serious medical conditions by the way] using a simple device. Apple has proactively pursued health care apps for its operating systems and Apple Watch, and has filed patents for health-related wearable tech like emergency-detecting sensors.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder largely associated with heavy snoring in which breathing repeatedly stops.

More than 6,000 users of Cardiogram were recruited into the study.

An estimated 22 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. The study was based on already established guidelines that suggest people with low heat rate variability are 1.44 times more likely to develop high blood pressure, and that algorithms can accurately determine sleep apnea by looking at beat-to-beat heart rate variability.

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Another 75 million American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension, putting them at high risk for heart disease and stroke which are the top causes of death in the US. Cardiogram then trained a deep learning network called DeepHeart on 70 percent of participants and tested it out on the other 30 percent. Of those people who agreed to take part, sleep apnea was detected in 1,016 people and hypertension in 2,230.

Though the study was conducted through the Apple Watch, Cardiogram co-founder and study lead Johnson Hsieh believes it shows promise for most wearables that incorporate a heart-rate sensor as "they basically all have the same technology built inside", he told TechCrunch. Seventy percent of the data went to train DeepHeart, teaching it on what to look for when diagnosing sleep apnea and hypertension.

"The idea here is that by screening continuously you would identify people with hypertension who might not know they have it", said Hsieh.