A Fitbit feature that passively monitors users’ heart rhythms was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, the company announced today.
The feature periodically checks wearers’ heart rhythms and alerts them if they show signs of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that puts people at a higher risk for stroke. Fitbit already had an FDA-cleared EKG app that can do spot checks for the condition, but users had to manually take those readings. The new tool runs in the background.
Fitbit ran a study testing the feature in 2020, which found that the tech could correctly identify cases of atrial fibrillation 98 percent of the time. Adding this tool to Fitbit devices brings its heart monitoring tech more in line with the Apple Watch, which also passively scans wearers to try and identify heart rhythms that suggest someone could have atrial fibrillation. Neither device can make a diagnosis, but they flag potential issues that someone might talk to their doctor about.
The Fitbit team said in a blog post that passive atrial fibrillation could “help reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening events — like stroke — and ultimately improve overall heart health for everyone.” That’s the hope for this type of device — that it could help people catch atrial fibrillation early so that they could take steps to monitor their heart health more closely. But it’s still unclear if these types of features actually protect people’s health.
Fitbit said that the new feature will be available to users in the United States “soon.”