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Don’t miss a beat! A wearable device could help improve heart health

February 12, 2024

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Don’t miss a beat! A wearable device could help improve heart health

As people dive into the new year and work to tackle new healthy resolutions, nearly one-third of Americans use a wearable device such as pedometers, smartwatches and rings to help track their activity and monitor changes to their health and wellbeing. But is a wearable device the right choice for you? And how can understanding your heart health improve your overall wellness? 

Dr. Peter Barclay, a general cardiologist at WellSpan Health, explains that while these devices have evolved to provide more data about heart health, they may not be right for everyone.  

Is a Wearable Device Right for You?  

Before purchasing a new device, consider speaking with your primary care doctor to determine whether it may be helpful for you. Doctors can assess a patient’s health needs and find ways to integrate technology to support their health and development. 

Dr. Barclay says while wearable devices are a great tool, they will only be helpful when used properly, efficiently, and may be best used paired with other tools and resources.  

“With immediate access to this data presented from your device, it is important to carefully interpret the information,” said Dr. Barclay. “With those cautions in mind, many users could benefit from the data which can be used to promote healthy behaviors such as improved diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep – all key behaviors to maintaining good cardiovascular health.” 

Moreover, if you have a pre-existing heart condition, these wearable devices may not provide accurate data. Your healthcare provider may recommend more targeted commercial wearable technology to gather precise heart health information if needed. 

The Importance of Heart Health Data 

From learning your personalized resting heart rates to your average heart rate while moving your body, to even collecting your heart rate as you sleep, many wearables can provide valuable data that can be used to assess cardiovascular health.   

“Your heart rate is a helpful measure to indicate your overall health and fitness level – while at rest or while working out,” Dr. Barclay shares. “When at rest, the average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. When you are moving your body, your ideal heart rate depends on the level of intensity you are aiming for.” 

When doing moderately intense physical activities like walking, swimming, or jogging, your target heart rate should be about 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. When you are doing more vigorous activities like running or weight training, you should be aiming for nearly 70 to 85% percent of your maximum heart rate. 

If you do not have a device that can help you tell what your heart rate is, you can still access your heart rate in two ways:  

  • At moderate exercise, you should still be able to talk. As you push yourself into vigorous exercise, you will find it difficult to continue carrying on a conversation.  
  • You can also take your heart rate by checking your pulse through your neck, wrist or chest when exercising. Anyone can determine their target heart rate and their maximum heart rate through a mathematical equation, as shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As always, if you have further questions about what your target heart rate may be, your primary care doctor is there to help you.  

“By knowing these metrics, you can monitor your heart rate, make sure you're pushing yourself the right amount during your workouts, and keep track of your overall cardiovascular health,” Dr. Barclay said. “It could also let you know when it may be time to slow down when you are approaching your maximum heart rate and support recovery after a workout is complete.” 

If you have questions or sense something is off about the data coming from your device, talk to your doctor.   

Don’t miss a beat – for more helpful information about your heart and WellSpan’s expert Cardiovascular team, please visit www.WellSpan.org/Heart.