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ECG: What is it and why does it matter?

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You may have heard of the feature ECG — sometimes abbreviated as EKG — making its way onto wearables as of late. Devices like the Withings Move ECG, the Apple Watch Series 4, and the soon to be released Amazfit Verge 2 are just a few devices that sport the functionality.

But what is ECG, and is it actually useful? Short for electrocardiogram, an ECG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart.

Also read: The best heart rate monitors and watches

With each beat, an electrical wave is sent through the heart. This causes it to contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. An ECG measures this electrical wave to help determine the health of the user’s heart.

It does this by measuring the amount of electrical activity in the heart and the time between heartbeats. This can help determine if the heart’s activity is normal, slow, fast, or irregular. It can also tell if parts of the heart are too large or overworked.

In the past, this technology was exclusively used by medical professionals to evaluate patients. Through this process, a medical technician attaches ten adhesive electrode patches to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. Those patches connect the patient to a machine that interprets and displays the heart’s electrical patterns for a doctor to evaluate. The process is very easy, completely painless, and should only take about ten minutes to complete.

withings move ecg fitness watch

So, if this way of performing an ECG is so simple, why does it need to be a feature in wearable technology? A wrist-based ECG is by no means a replacement for a professional medical ECG test. It may be helpful in some circumstances, but you should always consult your doctor regarding heart health.

Also, not many devices right now have built-in ECG. That’s because each device that includes this feature needs to be cleared by the FDA before going to market. Even Withings’ Move ECG is still waiting for approval though it was announced back in January 2019.

On top of that, most people don’t need this functionality crammed into a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Most of us just need to track our steps, workouts, diet, etc. Wrist-based ECG is primarily for people who need to evaluate their heart patterns regularly for whatever reason.

Maybe they have a heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation they need to monitor. Perhaps the user previously had a heart attack and is hoping the wearable will catch any irregularities before it’s too late. Maybe heart issues run in their family and this is one easy step they can take to be proactive.

In the end, if you are reading this article because you didn’t know what an ECG/EKG was, you probably don’t need one on you at all times. But, for some of you, this functionality could be revolutionary, even if just to offer a piece of mind.

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About Ronnie

Ronald Antonio O'Sullivan OBE (born 5 December 1975) is an English professional snooker player who is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. He has won five World Championships, a record seven Masters titles, and a record seven UK Championships, setting a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments. He shares the record for the most ranking titles (36) with Stephen Hendry. His career earnings of over £10 million put him in first place on snooker's all-time prize-money list. Winning the Tour Championship on 24 March 2019 made him the sport's current world number one, the fourth time in his career that he has held the top position and the first time he has been number one since May 2010. This is the longest gap between number one spells by any player in history.