Apple Watch users in Malaysia can now check their heart health with its ECG app

Apple Watches's ECG app is now active in Malaysia after obtaining local authority's approval, enabling users to measure their heart rhythm and be warned if it is unusual. — Apple

Apple has announced that its ECG app for its smartwatch, which allows users to measure their heart health, is now available in Malaysia after obtaining regulatory approval.

The app, which runs on Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6 with iOS 14.6 and watchOS 7.5, enables the device to capture information about the user’s heart rhythm and can even give an alert if it detects an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib) is identified.

According to the Mayo Clinic, AFib is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that is linked to increased risk of strokes, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Apple vice-president of health Dr Sumbul Desai said they were confident that these features would help users have more informed conversations with their physicians.

“With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers will be able to better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way,” he said, in a press release.

The ECG app and the irregular rhythm notification feature had recently received regulatory approval from Malaysia’s Medical Device Authority (MDA) as Class B software medical devices.

According to Apple, the ability of the ECG app to accurately classify an ECG recording as AFib or sinus rhythm was validated in a clinical trial of around 600 participants, while the irregular rhythm notification feature was studied in the Apple Heart Study with over 400,000 participants.

The app works in tandem with electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 4, 5, and 6 to enable users to take an ECG recording. This is done by having users hold their finger on the Digital Crown, which completes the circuit and then measures electrical signals across their heart.

After 30 seconds, the heart rhythm is classified and kept securely on the Health app on the connected smartphone. Users can then share these results with their doctor.

Types of heart rhythms it can identify include: AFib, AFib with high heart rate, sinus rhythm, low or high heart rate. Apple warns that readings can sometimes be dismissed as inconclusive or a poor recording.

National Heart Institute Kuala Lumpur cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Mohamed Ezani Taib said the app would provide users with an accessible initial indicator of heart health.

“AFib cases account for approximately one-third of our 200,000 cases annually here at the National Heart Institute, of which 40% are undiagnosed. Therefore, having an early warning system will be of immense benefit that will enable healthcare providers to better diagnose and treat heart rhythm issues earlier and potentially reduce the risk of complications, such as stroke,” he said.

To enable these new heart features, users will need to go through an onscreen setup that includes details about who can use these features, what the features can and cannot do, what results they may get and how to interpret them, as well as instructions on what to do if users are feeling symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

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