Using Your Wearable for a Healthier 2023

Santa brought you a smart watch–now what?

Wearables–Apple Watches, Fitbits and Samsung Galaxy Watches to name a few– are tremendous pieces of technology. They monitor your sleep, track your workouts and even alert you to abnormal heart rhythms. They are very complex pieces of technology. But putting them to work for better health doesn’t have to be.

Walker and Cosky

Walker and Cosky

Heavenly Walker says they are surprisingly easy to use. They all need to be connected to your smartphone. “With the Apple Watch as soon as you get one, you take it out of the box. Your iPhone will recognize that there is a new Apple Watch and it will add it,” says Walker. “With the other devices it’s also an automatic sync. You just need to download their particular app first.”

Walker works in the Connections Hub at Cone Health MedCenter Greensboro. She provides one-on-one help and has classes for those wanting to get the most out of their wearables. “I think most people are just afraid of what they don’t know. So, they assume that it’s gonna be complicated, but it really isn’t,” says Walker. Once paired to a phone, the app guides the setup.

Linda Cosky came to the connections hub one Wednesday morning wanting to track her workouts. “I want to set a fitness goal. And it’s nice to be able to track my progress,” says Cosky. According to Insider Intelligence, use of wearable technology has more than tripled in the last four years alone with most people tracking fitness.

Close up of watchBut Walker finds people’s eyes light up when they understand they can monitor their heart health. “It will tell me what my resting heart rate is. I’ll get a notification saying, you know, your average heart rate is this. And if for whatever reason in the next couple of weeks it is significantly different, I’ll get a notification saying your average heart rate is higher or lower. You can download that information into a PDF, and you can share that with your provider,” Walker explains. Several models of FitBit, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch even come equipped with FDA-approved electrocardiogram sensors.

dr. Cameron Lambert with Cone Health Medical Group talks with patients about those types of results every day. As an electrophysiologist he specializes in people with heart rhythm disorders. “I’ve had patients who used a smart watch to diagnose atrial fibrillation. With 20-25% of strokes linked to atrial fibrillation, early detection is paramount,” says Lambert. But most patients use their smart watch to monitor their arrhythmia and progress with treatment.

Still Lambert doesn’t think all of us need to be tracking heart rates and recording electrocardiograms. “I typically recommend these devices for patients experiencing symptoms that could be attributed to arrhythmia or with a known cardiac arrhythmia diagnosis,” says Lambert.

Xu and Walker

dr. Clint Young is a sleep doctor at LeBauer HealthCare. When it comes to sleep, Young finds the data wearables provide useful, but limited. “They don’t directly measure sleep stage. They don’t detect brainwaves. But they can give some approximation of sleep versus wakefulness and restlessness versus very still, which might be REM sleep,” points out Young. “For me this information is a conversation starter potentially pointing us to more detailed studies.”

Perhaps the biggest reason to use a wearable is the motivation it brings. Walker helps people download their workout results into their electronic health records. Fang Xu learned to tie her watch into an online health platform and wants whoever is on the other end to know about her fitness journey, “I feel like I did something. This is the record of my achievement.

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