With Cardiogram's AI, Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea, hypertension, study shows

By Laura Lovett
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A new study showed that Cardiogram’s deep neural network technology, called DeepHeart, can detect hypertension and sleep apnea. The study was recently presented at the American Heart Association. 

“Those are important conditions because they affect more than a billion people,” cofounder of Cardiogram Brandon Ballinger told MobiHealthNews. “Hypertension affects one in three people in the developed world. A fifth of those don’t even realize they have it. If you have hypertension it can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.”

The study was a partnership between Cardiogram and the UC San Francisco’s Health eHeart Study. Though it was originally developed for Apple Watch, Cardiogram can now be used with wearables including Fitbits, Apple Watches, Garmins, and Android Wear devices.

The study looked at 6,115 active Cardiogram app users who used it on an Apple Watch. The data was collected for between one and 53 weeks with a mean of 8.9 weeks. DeepHeart was trained on data from 70 percent of participants and tested on the 30 percent of participants that weren’t the same participants used to collect the data. DeepHeart was 90 percent accurate when detecting sleep apnea and 82 percent accurate on detecting hypertension. 

This type of technology can detect issues that doctors would often miss, said Ballinger. 

“Checking for sleep apnea is not part of your routine doctors visit,” said Ballinger. “So there is this major undiagnosed problem. The difficulty with this is, if you have sleep apnea you are likely to develop heart disease and develop abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.”

Since the app is able to track heart rates and can detect when the heart rate spikes during the normal REM sleep cycle, it can also detect when that cycle is abnormal. 

Nine to 21 percent of women and 24 to 31 percent of men have sleep apnea, according the American Sleep Association.  

Over the summer Cardiogram launched two new features on the Apple Watch called Leaderboards and Workout Zones. Both promote and track an active and healthy lifestyle. Using an algorithm the Cardiogram app is able to track individuals heart rates and can tell wearers their resting heart rate. It can also detect changes throughout the day. 

Pervious studies done by Cardiogram and UCSF has shown a 97 percent accuracy at detecting atrial fibrillation, which is the most common abnormal heart rhythm, according to a statement from Cardiogram. Cardiogram was founded in 2016 and is based in San Francisco.