The Apple Watch, in its current versions (1/2/3/4), is not able to accurately measure and monitor one’s blood pressure (BP) on its own. It is in fact impossible due to the design of iWatch, and the principles of operation of all pressure measurement devices (sphygmomanometers). In order to track the pressure, the sphygmomanometer cuff must completely squeeze the artery and then, gradually, begin to vent the air from it. After that, the sensors on the device determine the time of appearance of the noise that appears in the arteries. This time of occurrence is considered to be systolic pressure, and the time of termination – diastolic. and time of termination – diastolic.
The Relevance of the Problem
Diseases of the cardiovascular system are now ranked first for causes of death in the world. Increasing blood pressure (hypertension) plays a significant role in this. In America, hypertension is considered to be above 130/90, and in Europe above 140/90. According to the World Health Organization, in 2004, hypertension caused 12.8% of the population’s deaths. Social status and gender did not affect the risk of high blood pressure. Increased blood pressure, along with other factors, such as atherosclerosis, is associated with an increased risk of developing strokes and other heart diseases.
The iWatch in the latest versions of watchOS received a lot of functionality that is connected with the heart (EKG, detection of fibrillation, fall detection). But the possibility of measuring blood pressure with existing sensors in the device still does not exist. Despite this, Apple continues research in this area and in 2018 published a patent on technology that may become available in the next generation of watches.
Such control of BP will be useful for determining the disease and ensuring timely referral to doctors for the purpose of prescribing drugs or adjusting their dose.
In the United States Patent and Trademark Office on June 7, 2018, a paper was published, which describes the principles of a wrist blood pressure monitor. The device, according to the document, is equipped with several sensors, has a display, and works with a wireless data transfer protocol for contact with other devices (probably Bluetooth).
Also, according to the patent, the device has a strap of the cellular structure. During the measurement, the cells increase in volume, thereby pinching the user’s hand or foot. Upon termination of blood flow, the sensors register it and begin to gradually reduce the pressure in the cells. Starting from this moment and the appearance of the first blood noise, systolic pressure is recorded and when the noises stop – diastolic.
It is assumed that Apple will use sensors of this type to determine unnatural high or low blood pressure. Usually, these are life-threatening conditions.
Do not expect high accuracy from sphygmomanometers, which are located on the wrist. The shoulder pressure measurement method is more accurate. The release date of this sensor, like its presence in the Apple Watch, is not yet known to us. The sensor will be tested by the FDA in America and the European Medicines Agency in Europe, as well as in numerous studies that will be conducted.
Types of Blood Pressure Monitors
There are manual and automatic devices for measuring pressure. Manual includes mercury and aneroid (not having a liquid in the composition). Mercury in our time is almost never used, and aneroid is rather widespread. They are especially used in medical institutions because of their low cost and accuracy of measurement.
Automatic BPM divided according to the place of imposition: the wrist or shoulder. Also, there are semi-automatic and fully automatic versions. Semiautomatic monitors differ from automatic in that they need to pump air independently, while in others there is a compressor for inflating the cuff.
In fact, the described Apple patent can make an automatic sphygmomanometer for the wrist from Apple Watch, but it is not suitable for everyday pressure measurement since the measurement accuracy is quite low. This is influenced by physiological features (the size of the arteries in this area), age (in people over 40 years old, the elasticity of the arteries decreases), heart diseases. Therefore, if a track or a blood pressure monitor is added to the iWatch, it will only be useful for diagnosing serious deviations.
Available BPM Devices
As in the case of glucose monitoring, sphygmomanometers from various companies already exist, which have been approved by the FDA and, more importantly, have an application for the Apple Watch and iPhone. You can synchronize all your measurements and track changes using your phone or clock.
Omron 10 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor. This is one of the oldest and most popular brands of sphygmomanometers. In Series 10, among other changes, synchronization of pressure data via Bluetooth has been made available. Using the Omron Connect application, measurement results can be transferred to any smartphone, as well as to an Apple Watch. The device is supported by the Apple Health app and can be used by 2 people at once, allowing 200 results to be saved. It is also possible to connect the device to Amazon Alexa, which at your request can report pressure data and periods of its increase. The measurement occurs three times with the fixation of the average value, in accordance with the recommendations of the American Heart Association.
QardioArm Blood Pressure Monitor. The main difference of this blood pressure monitor is the lack of a display. All control of the device occurs through the application on the phone or watch. Supports Apple Health, Alexa Skills, Siri. The software is available for both Android and iOS. The application can build graphs, determine an irregular rhythm (arrhythmia), interpret results, and add notes or reminders. You can also send your measurements to a doctor or share them with someone you need.
iHealth Sense Fully Automatic Wrist BPM. This is the most economical option. Like QardioArm, the Sense model has no display and all activity is monitored on the smartphone. In the View model, a digital display is available on the surface of the device and costs more. Application for iWatch is not available, only the iPhone and iPad. It is able to build graphs, interpret the measurements, display the pulse wave graph.
Apple Watch Blood Pressure Apps
Pressure monitoring on your Apple Watch can be carried out both with the help of companion applications for your sphygmomanometers or with separate programs created specifically for this purpose.
- Qardio heart health. An application specifically designed for an ecosystem of devices consisting of QardioArm for measuring blood pressure, QardioBase for analyzing your body weight and QardioCore for recording ECG. Synchronization is available with Apple Health and MyFitnessPal. Implemented graphics, reminders, sharing of information. In the complex, all devices are able to determine the following indicators: heart rate, ECG, blood pressure, arrhythmias, body mass index, body composition (percentage of fat, muscles, bones, water), respiration rate, calories, number of steps taken, and skin temperature.
- OMRON connect. Similar to the previous one for the Omron ecosystem. Among the indicators defined are blood pressure, pulse, weight, percentage of visceral and body fat, skeletal muscles, body age. Available sharing indicators, graphing, integration with Apple Health.
- iHealth MyVitals. The functionality is about the same as in other applications. Among the interesting features, available input eaten food. Not compatible with Apple Watch.
Blood Pressure Self Control Applications
- Blood Pressure Companion. Convenient self-add numbers of blood pressure, pulse. Charts, setting reminders, export to CSV, HTML, PDF, Apple Health.
- Heart Habit. Among the usual input indicators of pressure available input: angina, heart attacks, increase blood pressure, salt intake, drugs.
- Hello Heart • For heart health. According to the developers, the program was developed in accordance with the AMA guidelines and reduces the risk of cardiovascular events. Weight and pressure readings are available.