You may have heard of the feature ECG — sometimes abbreviated as EKG — making its way onto wearables as of late. Devices like the Withings Move ECG, the Apple Watch Series 4, and the soon to be released Amazfit Verge 2 are just a few devices that sport the functionality.
But what is ECG, and is it actually useful? Short for electrocardiogram, an ECG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart.
Also read: The best heart rate monitors and watches
With each beat, an electrical wave is sent through the heart. This causes it to contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. An ECG measures this electrical wave to help determine the health of the user’s heart.
It does this by measuring the amount of electrical activity in the heart and the time between heartbeats. This can help determine if the heart’s activity is normal, slow, fast, or irregular. It can also tell if parts of the heart are too large or overworked.
In the past, this technology was exclusively used by medical professionals to evaluate patients. Through this process, a medical technician attaches ten adhesive electrode patches to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. Those patches connect the patient to a machine that interprets and displays the heart’s electrical patterns for a doctor to evaluate. The process is very easy, completely painless, and should only take about ten minutes to complete.
So, if this way of performing an ECG is so simple, why does it need to be a feature in wearable technology? A wrist-based ECG is by no means a replacement for a professional medical ECG test. It may be helpful in some circumstances, but you should always consult your doctor regarding heart health.
Also, not many devices right now have built-in ECG. That’s because each device that includes this feature needs to be cleared by the FDA before going to market. Even Withings’ Move ECG is still waiting for approval though it was announced back in January 2019.
On top of that, most people don’t need this functionality crammed into a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Most of us just need to track our steps, workouts, diet, etc. Wrist-based ECG is primarily for people who need to evaluate their heart patterns regularly for whatever reason.
Maybe they have a heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation they need to monitor. Perhaps the user previously had a heart attack and is hoping the wearable will catch any irregularities before it’s too late. Maybe heart issues run in their family and this is one easy step they can take to be proactive.
In the end, if you are reading this article because you didn’t know what an ECG/EKG was, you probably don’t need one on you at all times. But, for some of you, this functionality could be revolutionary, even if just to offer a piece of mind.