A new study published in npj Digital Medicine has shown that data from wearable activity devices, like smartwatches, can be used to determine health metrics that are associated with a user’s physical and cardiovascular health.
The study included 22 participants with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a type of high blood pressure that impacts blood vessels in the lungs and heart. The participants wore Fitbits between two clinical visits, and at each visit 26 health metrics were gathered. Using the Fitbits, the researchers gathered data about step rates and heart rates between clinical visits and compared them to the clinical metrics gathered at each visit. Overall, they found significant correlations for 18 of the health metrics, including those associated with physical status, cardiovascular function, pulmonary function, and some biomarkers. For example, metrics gathered by the fitness trackers correlated with levels of a blood biomarker that is used to assess heart failure risk.
As one of the study authors stated, this research suggests that it may be possible to measure health and disease severity remotely, which is likely to be easier and more convenient for many patients. Activity trackers could also help identify individuals who could benefit from seeing their doctors more frequently or taking certain medications. Wearable activity monitors also have health benefits for individuals that are simpler and more approachable than determining clinical health metrics. Studies have shown that consistent use of an activity monitor increases steps per day and overall activity, which, along with diet, is a straightforward way to improve heart health. Regular use of an activity tracker is an easy way to monitor daily step goals and get the right amount and intensity of exercise every day.