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The Apple Watch is a lot more than just a cool gadget for tech enthusiasts; perhaps more than any other device that Apple has ever released, the Apple Watch actually has the ability to seriously improve people’s quality of life in a whole lot of ways, ranging from simply promoting health and fitness and an active lifestyle to actually saving people’s lives and improving them in sometimes surprising ways.
We’ve seen numerous stories of the safety features built into the Apple Watch saving people from drowning through its cellular calling features, and automatically calling in paramedics after an accident with the Fall Detection and Emergency SOS features. Then there’s the ECG feature found on the Apple Watch Series 4 or later, which has detected deadly heart conditions numerous times, sending Apple Watch users to seek medical help for conditions they may not have otherwise even known they had.
However you don’t need the newest Apple Watch to take advantage of many of its lifesaving heart and health features, and even the original first-generation Apple Watch has been credited with alerting users to potentially dangerous and sometimes even rare heart conditions that are often signalled by a unusual heart rates.
This was the case with YouTuber Joel Telling, who received a notification on his Apple Watch advising him that his heart rate had been clocking in at over 120 beats per minute for more than 10 minutes.
As 9to5Mac reports, after receiving the notification on his Apple Watch, Telling decided to go to the emergency room right away, where doctors discovered that he was suffering from tachycardia — an unusually elevated heart rate while resting. Of course, this is exactly what the Apple Watch was reporting, but doctors ran a series of tests just to make sure there wasn’t a deeper condition behind it.
After finding no signs of a pulmonary embolism or irregular heart rate, they concluded that it was likely the result of “stress and dehydration from recent travel,” Telling said, and simply gave him fluids and had him rest for a while at the hospital until his heart rate returned to normal levels.
While Telling’s case was easily treatable, tachycardia can be considerably more serious. As the Mayo Clinic explains, if left untreated it can result in heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac arrest or death. While it’s normal for a heart to beat faster when a user is exercising or in response to stress, trauma, or illness, this should not be the case when simply resting, and while the issue may be something as simple as dehydration and stress, as it was in Telling’s case, there’s always the possibility that it could be something more, but without an Apple Watch, most users are unlikely to be aware when this is happening.
In fact, atrial fibrillation is actually the most common form of tachycardia, which is something that the Apple Watch has been specifically designed to alert users to, since the random nature of the symptoms means it rarely shows up during an actual medical examination, and can therefore go undiagnosed for years.
How to Set up Heart Rate Notifications
If you have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later, you can choose to receive notifications when your heart rate is either higher or lower than it should be. While the Heart Rate app on your Apple Watch should offer to turn this on the first time you open it, you can also check from the Watch app on your iPhone to make sure it’s enabled and set the thresholds.
- On your iPhone, open the Watch app.
- Ensure the My Watch tab is selected in the bottom left corner.
- Scroll down to the third section and tap Heart.
- Beside High Heart Rateand Low Heart Rate you should either see a “BPM” setting if the feature is enabled, or “Off” it if’s disabled.
- To enable or disable the feature or change the thresholds, tap either High Heart Rate or Low Heart Rate and choose either “Off” or the appropriate BPM value.
Once enabled, your Apple Watch will send you a notification whenever your heart rate stays above the “High Heart Rate” threshold for more than 10 minutes when you otherwise appear to be inactivate, or whenever it falls below the “Low Heart Rate” threshold for more than 10 minutes regardless of what you’re doing — a condition known as bradycardia which can also be indicative of serious heart conditions such as ventricular bigeminy.