Our smartwatch could detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study reveals

Apple watch

Researchers found that using Cardiogram, the Watch can detect sleep apnea - where you occasionally stop breathing or take shallow breaths while sleeping - with 90 percent accuracy. Apple has proactively pursued health care apps for its operating systems and Apple Watch, and has filed patents for health-related wearable tech like emergency-detecting sensors. As a result, Cardiogram and UCSF were able to detect sleep apnea in 1,016 of participants and hypertension in 2,230 using an advance deep learning algorithm they call "DeepHeart".

Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million adults in the US, with another 80 percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Similarly the result for hypertension in the subjects was detected with an accuracy of 82 percent, according to TechCrunch. The study was conducted in collaboration between the health startup Cardiogram and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Meanwhile according to the American Sleep Apnea Association 80% of USA adults are considered to have moderate and severe cases of undiagnosed sleep apnea. Current methods for diagnosing sleep apnea are much more involved than simply wearing an Apple Watch while you sleep, requiring hoards of sensors and leads to be attached to the body during sleep. Basically the same amounts of people are at risk of heart disease and stroke.

"What if we could transform wearables people already own - Apple Watches, Android Wears, Garmins, and Fitbits - into affordable, everyday screening tools using artificial intelligence?" wrote Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger in a Medium post.

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DeepHeart was trained on data from 70 percent of participants, and then tested on the remaining 30 percent who were not used in training, according to Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger. In 2003, the ARIC study (N=11,061) showed that those with low heart rate variability were 1.44x more likely to develop hypertension over 9 years. The company had integrated a neural network to store step count data and interpret heart rate.

More than one billion people globally suffer from hypertension, with 20 percent of these left undiagnosed, the World Health Organization claims.

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