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Don’t just follow your steps. Here are 4 health indicators to monitor on your smartwatch, according to doctors.

From smart wearable devices as the Apple Watch or Garmin trackers to sports celebrities Oura ring and the trendy WHOOP bracelet, health technology has come a long way from simply tracking your steps.

“We can now start looking at many different parameters,” says Dr. Davin Lundquist, family physician and chief medical officer at Augmedix. “Anytime we can be more aware of and pay attention to our health, it tends to influence behavior in a positive way.”

Here are four that doctors say may be helpful to watch for:

Sleep

Most healthy adults can benefit from sleep tracking to some extent, says Dr. Carlos M. Nunez, chief medical officer of medical device company ResMed.

“Many users don’t track the right information and may end up fixating or misinterpreting data rather than observing the broader trends that trackers can help indicate,” says Nunez. “Users should start by tracking their sleep-wake cycle to establish a consistent routine of quality sleepwhich research has shown can lead to better focus, increased productivity, and an overall more positive feeling.

Heartbeat

Tracking your heart rate can give you an idea of ​​your heart health. The lower your resting heart rate is, within reason, the healthier your heart is, says Lundquist.

“If you do more aerobic exercise, over time your resting heart rate should decrease. And that would indicate that your heart is healthier,” he says.

Respiratory rate

“Some devices can also provide information on potential key health indicators, such as your breathing rate, activity level, etc.,” says Nunez. “For some users, the data can also indicate how your body responds to stress.”

Respiratory rate is a measurement that can also alert someone to other health issues. It’s something that Michael Snyder, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine who has studied smartwatches, experienced himself after discovering COVID-19. Although he took a COVID test that came back negative, his own tracing app alerted him to sudden changes in his breathing and heart rate.

“I listened to my COVID test and I should have listened to my smart watch,” he told CBS News in a 2022 interview.

Heartbeat

Tracking metrics like heartbeat can help alert patients to larger problems.

“I had a patient whose Apple Watch told him he was suffering from a series of atrial fibrillations,” Lundquist said. “We took this person to a cardiologist. Sure enough, it was confirmed and the patient was treated adequately.”

“Afib (atrial fibrillation) is a big problem,” says cardiologist Dr. Tara Narula. told “CBS Mornings” in 2018 while Apple has deployed electrocardiogram technology in its smartwatches to help detect the heart problem. “It affects millions of Americans, increases hospitalization rates (and) increases deaths and heart failure.”

It also increases the risk of a potentially debilitating stroke fivefold, she added.

“The problem with atrial fibrillation is that it can be asymptomatic, so you can walk around not knowing you have it while you are at increased risk of stroke,” she explained, noting that a tracking device could help hold patients accountable, but could also lead to false alerts: “The anxiety, the false positives, the flooding of doctors’ offices with calls. There are certainly downsides, but I think it has the potential to be really, really useful in the future.”

How accurate is the data?

Health trackers have come a long way, doctors say, but you shouldn’t rely on these devices for 100% accuracy or diagnosis. The FDA specifically warned against any device claiming measure blood sugar without needles, as inaccuracies could have serious health consequences.

For other types of tracking, “the accuracy of some smartwatches is still a bit in question, although they are getting better with each generation. So I think overall, doctors are increasingly trusting to these devices,” says Lundquist. . Additionally, as he points out, users also have to remove the device to charge it, meaning data won’t be saved 24/7.

Although trackers can be a “valuable tool for many,” Nunez says the data should not be used to diagnose serious sleep or health problems.

“Ultimately, sleep tracking devices can help users set and achieve health goals, but are not a substitute for formal diagnosis or professional medical care,” he says.

They can also help doctors collaborate with their patients, Lundquist says.

“As these apps become more and more common, the ability to walk into your doctor’s appointment, pull out your phone and show them your settings would be a great way for us to collaborate with our patients and help them see where there are potential opportunities or problems,” he says.

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