The Fitbit Sense has brought ECG to the Fitbit range for the first time – and it’s one of the most powerful, medical-grade features going.
ECG is a specialist medical grade sensor that resides within the Fitbit Sense – and is approved by the FDA and CE. Its job is to look at your heart rate in far greater detail than the Fitbit PurePulse 2.0 sensor that looks at your heart rate.
The results of the ECG sensor can pick up signs of serious conditions such as atrial fibrillation– ensuring your Fitbit Sense health watch can offer unrivalled insights into your health.
For some users, the ECG is a handy way to check your heart health. But for other users – especially the over 50s – it can be the most important feature on their smartwatch.
Read on for a full explainer.
- Part 1: Fitbit Health Metrics explained
- Part 2: How stress tracking works on Fitbit Sense
- Part 3: How Fitbit’s sleep tracking can boost your health and wellbeing
What is ECG?
While all Fitbits have an optical heart rate monitor on board, ECG is different.
An electrocardiogram (ECG or sometimes referred to as EKG) is designed to measure how well your heart is working.
The Fitbit Sense uses the electrocardiogram to measure the rhythm of your heart, which can alert you to conditions such as atrial fibrillation.
However, it’s important to note that your Fitbit Sense cannot detect or warn of a heart attack.
Atrial fibrillation explained
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is a heart condition that can cause an irregular heartbeat.
AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. Abnormal heart rhythms can occur when the heart’s electrical system that coordinates heart beats does not work properly. This can cause your heart to beat too slow, too fast or irregularly.
It’s common and potentially deadly, and is a leading, underlying cause of strokes in the US.
What’s more, many people with Afib don’t know they have the condition.
And the Fitbit Sense is perfectly placed to be an effective ECG device. "Afib can come and go, as can conditions that affect the rhythm of your heart. That means having a device that can take spot readings at any time, makes it a hugely powerful health tool to have at your disposal," said Fitbit’s Director of Research Algorithms, Conor Heneghan.
How does ECG on Fitbit Sense work?
The ECG app can be found on your Fitbit Sense health watch. Just press the menu button and slide the screen right until you find it.
The first time you run the ECG app, you will need to set it up on your phone first. Head to the Fitbit app and you’ll see an option to set up ECG. There will be some information to read and terms and conditions.
Once that’s set up, head back to your Sense health watch and tap Ready. Confirm which wrist the Sense is on, sit down and start the scan.
You place your thumb and forefingers on the corners shown and the test takes 30 seconds.
You’ll see the result right there on the Fitbit Sense. It will show either a normal sinus rhythm or Afib.
Once the test is done, you can look back at it in the Fitbit app. Head to Discover > Assessments and Reports. All ECG scans will be listed here.
If you tap one you can download a PDF of the scan, which will show your heart rhythm. You can show this to your doctor, who will be able to see what was happening to your heart at the time of the scan.
How often should you take an ECG scan?
Provided your heart gets a normal sinus rhythm, you’re likely to only need to periodically take an ECG test, just to check everything is in order.
But if you suffer from the feeling of your heart racing, palpitations or periods of feeling unwell, then you can use the ECG app as and when you need it. And it becomes an incredibly important health tool, right on your wrist.
Fitbit’s Director of Research Algorithms, Conor Heneghan, says that means users can have a better informed conversation with your doctor.
“The problem with cardiac issues with rhythm is they're so intermittent,” said Heneghan.
“For people who have palpitations or other symptoms, ECG can be a reassurance. And if they feel like something's a bit odd going on physiologically they can capture that moment to speak with their doctor about it,” he continued.
Fitbit also recommends that the ECG feature should only be used by those aged 22 or above.
Discover the smartwatch
The Fitbit Sense is out now. In addition ECG it also boasts heart rate tracking, stress monitoring, blood oxygen tracking for advanced sleep monitoring, a skin temperature sensor and GPS – making it the most advanced health smartwatch on the market.
It retails for and is available on Fitbit.com.