​Fitbit starts blood pressure trial as big names go to war on health tech

New Fitbit Sense study targets hypertension
​Fitbit starts blood pressure trials
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Fitbit has announced it's starting trials which could see blood pressure tracking arrive on its devices.

The trial is going to run via Fitbit Labs on Fitbit Sense, which will look at Pulse Arrival Time (PAT), which is a measure of how quickly blood takes to reach your wrist after its been pumped by the heart.

Fitbit has already found a link between PAT and blood pressure from an earlier study, and now it wants to get more data from a large-scale user study.

The Fitbit Labs app will be available for Sense users in the US, and those eligible will be prompted to take part.

Fitbit wants to look at the effect of PAT on things like eating, meditating, or taking a warm bath or shower. So that could mean that users are prompted to log behaviours not usually tracked by the Fitbit ecosystem.

The aim, Fitbit says, is to “explore the potential link to tracking blood pressure.”

And Fitbit also threw a bit of shade on Samsung’s blood pressure monitoring, which requires cuff validation.

Samsung with blood pressure monitoring

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 with blood pressure monitoring

“While the ability to easily measure and monitor blood pressure in a wearable, non-cuff application has been of great interest, it has been rather elusive to date, and the ability to accurately capture blood pressure readings in a non-cuff from the wrist-wearable has not yet been achieved,” a company statement read.

Blood pressure looks to be a big focus on wearables in 2021, and by the end of the year there could be multiple devices with the feature on board.

Apple has won blood pressure monitoring patents which at least indicate an interest in the space, and Valencell also showed off technology at CES.

In an exclusive interview, the Zepp Health (Huami) COO told us Amazfit was also looking to introduce cuff-free blood pressure tracking, and we also saw the Aktiia band offer the feature without the requirement for validation.

And there’s little wonder there’s so much focus on blood pressure from the wrist. Not only does high blood pressure affect 1 in 2 Americans, few track it every day because of cumbersome cuffs.

A Valencell study showed 31% of Americans with hypertension measure their blood pressure just a few times a year. Only 4% measure it multiple times a day, as advised by the Mayo Clinic.

Making the data easily available and automatic would be a massive benefit for high blood pressure sufferers.