Smartwatches Can Help Detect COVID-19 Days Before Symptoms Appear


The world was put on pause thanks to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic last year.

While some places have begun to open back up and attempt a return to normal, spikes in the number of cases frequently send people back to their homes to wait out yet another wave of quarantines or lockdowns.

Naturally, everyone -- whether they stay home or are forced to work -- wants to find a way to keep track of the virus, where it is, how it's progressing, and whether or not they might have actually contracted it themselves. 

A recent study has determined that wearable smartwatches, may be able to help people detect COVID-19 early, the same way they have been shown to detect Lyme disease at early stages.

man reading atria smartwatch data

There is even some evidence that these wearables could unearth asymptomatic infections by showing changes to heart health before COVID-19 symptoms become visible, as the virus can have a profound impact not just on a person's immune system, but on may functions and systems of the body. Most of the note when using a wearable smartwatch are subtle changes to a person's heart health.

Watching the FitTrack Atria For COVID Early warning signs

Unless someone is getting tested for COVID-19 on a very frequent basis, it is not very likely that they will get a diagnosis until after symptoms have already begun to show. Using a wearable smartwatch like the FitTrack Atria may provide you with an earlier warning.

This is actually not a new finding, as experts have previously conducted studies that show fitness trackers to be a useful tool in monitoring the progression of infectious diseases. However, what we have been recently learning, is that this same method of tracking infectious diseases may also be applied to COVID-19.

Abnormal resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate-to-steps ratio are associated with COVID-19 illness

By now, everyone has learned that oxygen levels are greatly affected by COVID-19, dropping to low levels of blood oxygen and affecting a person's respiratory rate. What is less commonly known is that the heart rate may be affected in the opposite direction.

While those with COVID-19 see their oxygen levels drop, studies have shown that heart rates often rise when a person is afflicted with the Coronavirus, even before symptom onset.

According to the study, 81 percent of those who participated showed an abnormal change in their baseline heart rate when infected with COVID-19. A whopping 22 out of 26 stated cases with physiological changes were shown to display heart rate changes before or at the symptom onset.

person receiving temporal temperature test

Meaning that this heart rate variability could have been an early indication of the Coronavirus infection. In some cases, detection may be possible as early as 15 days before symptoms appear, according to the study.

The study also found that the heart rate would increase at an abnormal rate when compared to the number of steps taken by those who were infected with COVID-19. Those depending on a smart watch to try to catch early warning signs of the virus would want to keep an eye on how their heart health responds to their rate of activity and steps taken. 

Sleep and activity alterations associated with COVID-19 illness

While it makes sense that activities like steps taken and corresponding heart rate would indicate a change in health, changes in the body when at rest can also be a key indicator of COVID-19 infection.

People who were later proven to have contracted the Coronavirus were observed to show a change in the time spent sleeping before symptoms became clear. 

Smartwatches are considered a fairly reliable method of determining how long the wearer spent asleep each night. It appeared that people who were infected with COVID-19 showed an increase in their time spent sleeping before symptoms of the Coronavirus infection began to show.

Those who contracted the virus were also shown to take fewer steps on average, showing a marked decrease in their rate of activity. This led the conductors of the study to conclude that COVID-19 caused those afflicted to be less active and to sleep more often.

Association between heart rate signals and symptoms

The median increase in heart rate was shown to be around seven beats per minute. For those who were able to report date for both when they showed symptoms and when and when they were diagnosed with COVID -19, 88 per cent of these people showed an elevated heart rate when wearing the smartwatch.

For those who were not able to report both a symptom and diagnosis date, an astonishing 100 per cent of cases reported an increased heart rate. This makes it very difficult to ignore the correlation between elevated heart rate metrics and a possible COVID-19 diagnosis, further arguing for the benefit of monitoring one's health with the help of a wearable device. 

Subtle Heart Beat Changes

According to the University of California San Francisco, COVID-19 may be causing physical changes and damage to the heart health of those who contracted the Coronavirus, even if they have not displayed any actual symptoms of the illness. Just like the previously stated study, UCSF also states that people's heart health is affected by COVID-19 at the onset of contracting the virus. Issues with the ability to effectively pump blood, inflammation of heart muscles, and inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart have all been noted. 

Along with these physiological changes to the heart, experts have noticed a change to the heartbeat itself, observing changes to the rhythm patterns of the heart in those afflicted with COVID-19.

These subtle changes to the heartbeat may be indicators of the larger issues such as the previously mentioned problems with pumping blood throughout the body in an effective manner.

Early Warning

As you can see, there could be a great benefit to using a smartwatch such as the FitTrack Atria as a tool in your health care needs.

Through the careful monitoring metrics and watching closely the heart rate, average activity rate, temperature,  the heart rate in comparison to steps taken, and the amount of time spent sleeping, there is a chance that a person might be able to note the onset of the COVID-19 infection before symptoms begin to show.

References:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-020-00640-6

https://www.ucsf.edu/magazine/covid-hearts