Study: Wearable smart devices could detect health problems

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2014 file photo, the new Apple Watch is modeled during a media event in Cupertino, Calif. Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted the wearable gadget will be as game-changing as Apple’s revolutionary iPhones and iPads, which have become indispensable accessories for millions around the globe. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(ABC News)– There’s a new study about the health benefits of smart devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, which could be used to detect signs of diabetes and other problems.

For some, wearable devices like the Apple Watch are already at the center of everyday activities, especially fitness.

But now, a potential medical breakthrough. The medical data company, Cardiogram, is claiming that the Apple Watch, along with other smart devices like Fitbit and Android Wear, could be used to track much more than just your steps. Maybe even tracking signs of diabetes and other diseases.

“This is the first study showing that ordinary consumer wearables – things like Apple Watches…can detect early signs of diabetes,” said Brandon Ballinger, Co-Founder, Cardiogram.

Brandon Ballinger is Cardiogram’s co-founder and worked with doctors at the University Of California at San Francisco for the new study.

The company took heart data from more than 14,000 users of its Cardiogram app, singling out the users who said they had already been diagnosed with diabetes. The app, Ballinger says, learned the characteristics of their heart rate patterns, then made an accurate diabetes reading in 85 percent of the people.

“This was phase 1 where we just assessed our accuracy at detecting people who already knew they had diabetes and then phase two will be actually diagnosing people who don’t know they have diabetes,” said Ballinger.

The designers say they also want to teach the app to detect other conditions like hypertension and sleep apnea.

We’ve seen information from such devices save lives before, like high school teacher Jeff Bravo, who suffered a seizure. His Fitbit told doctors exactly when his heart rate became irregular, exactly the info they needed.

“They shocked my heart. It was able to go back to a normal rhythm and I was sent home later that day. Yes, I would definitely say it’s peace of mind worn on your wrist,” said Bravo.

And high school football player, Paul Houle Jr, whose Apple Watch told him his heart was beating at 60 to 80 beats higher than average, his trainer racing him to the health center..

“If I didn’t have the initial push from the Apple Watch, I could have very easily, you know, fallen down and died on the field the next day,” said Houle.

We need to mention that “this was presented at an AI conference, not a medical conference, and that they need to further test this medically to see if these early findings hold up.”

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