The Food and Drug Administration cleared a Fitbit feature that passively monitors users’ heart rhythms, the company announced today.
The feature periodically checks wearers’ heart rhythms. For example, it alerts them if they exhibit atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that sets people at a higher risk for stroke.
Fitbit already held an FDA-cleared EKG app that could do spot checks for the condition, but users had to take those readings manually. The new tool runs in the background.
Fitbit ran a study testing the characteristic in 2020, which found that the tech could correctly identify atrial fibrillation issues 98 percent of the time. Adding this tool to Fitbit devices gets its heart monitoring tech more in line with the Apple Watch, which passively scans wearers to try and identify heart rhythms that suggest someone could have atrial fibrillation. Of course, neither device can diagnose, but they flag potential issues that someone might talk to their doctor about.
In a blog post, the Fitbit team said that passive atrial fibrillation could “help reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening events — like stroke — and ultimately improve overall heart health for everyone.” That’s the expectancy for this type of device — that it could help people detect atrial fibrillation early to take steps to monitor their heart health more closely. But it’s still unclear if these features protect people’s health.
Fitbit said that the new element will be available to users in the United States “soon.”
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For the record, Fitbit is an American consumer electronics and fitness company. It produces wireless-enabled wearable technology, physical fitness monitors, and activity trackers such as smartwatches, pedometers, and monitors for heart rate, quality of sleep, stairs climbed, and related software.