Marie Bourque, 74, woke up in the middle of the night in October with an alert from her Apple Watch buzzing her wrist, informing her of an irregular heartbeat. She immediately got herself to the hospital — an act that saved her from a potential stroke or heart attack, had she waited too much longer.
“Without the notification, I would have woken up the next morning — hopefully — and been in a really serious situation,” Bourque tells The Post. The device, a newer model of the smartwatch, was a gift from her grandchildren and daughter, who also live in Queens. It includes a function that monitors pulses, which can catch potentially grave heart problems.
“My grandson is very proud that it was his idea, especially because I’ve gone into the hospital and come out alive,” Bourque says. It wouldn’t be the first time the watch saved someone’s life. In October, a New Jersey man became lost and fell down a mountainside, fracturing his back in three different places.
His watch automatically dialed 911 and first responders took him by boat to the hospital. And, in September, another man’s Apple Watch detected a hard fall when he fell off his bike and was knocked unconscious. An ambulance was immediately called to the scene, and his emergency contact was notified right away.
For those like Bourque with the heart condition Atrial fibrillation, the watches have become a lifeline. Patients can use the devices with 84% accuracy to determine whether they were experiencing the potentially deadly rhythm issues, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The condition, which sends approximately 750,000 Americans to the hospital and leads to 130,000 deaths a year, is the top cause of stroke, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Devices like the Apple Watch help to take the guesswork out of a scary medical situation, says Bourque’s doctor, Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
“The scariest thing is when people don’t know what’s going on, and they live with it,” says Steinbaum of the symptoms of Atrial fibrillation, which include dizziness and shortness of breath. “And then all of a sudden they have a stroke. So for a lot of people, the watch is a wonderful screening tool.” The Apple Watch study was supported by Apple, but Steinbaum and others say patients are using other at-home devices to monitor their heart rates, such as bands worn across the chest from companies including Garmin and Polar.
There are drawbacks to the heart monitoring functions of Apple Watches, too. Some doctors feel the devices increase anxiety for patients, Steinbaum says. And, there are still some kinks on the user side. For example, a patient of Steinbaum’s came to her in a panic when her watch told her she had a “normal sinus rhythm. But that was just a medical term for a normal rhythm,” Steinbaum says. “We had a moment of, ‘oh Apple needs to explain this one better!”
For Bourque, the prospect of a stroke doesn’t hang as heavy on her shoulders as it used to. “I can sleep better at night now,” she says.
Source: New York Post