Have you recently seen what’s available on smartwatches? It’s incredible how far they’ve come – once a step counter now, some have the ability to monitor many health metrics- something that wasn’t possible just a few years ago. Are you looking to purchase one of these smartwatches? Are you wondering or confused about what you should look for? By reading Smartwatches With Health Metrics (2021 Buying Guide), you’ll be exploring and discovering the available options of smartwatches offering health metrics. You’ll better understand what’s available and have the knowledge of the one that best fits your wants and needs.
Before we take a look at health metrics options, let’s take a few minutes to go over some smartwatch information.
What Is A Smartwatch?
A smartwatch is a mobile device that you wear on your wrist like a watch and has many of the same features of a smartphone. It keeps time, has apps; some have text messaging options, phone use, and the ability to listen to music much as you have on a smartphone. In addition to that, some also monitor activities and health vitals. Smartwatches, like smartphones, have a touchscreen that allows the user to tap or swipe to perform specific actions.
How Do Smartwatches Work?
There are some smartwatches that stand-alone, in that a smartphone isn’t required. However, most require a smartphone. For this reason, it’s important to note that not all smartwatches work with all smartphones. For instance, some smartwatches have operating systems that only support iPhones (Apple); others support Android while still others support both Android and IOS. To avoid disappointment, you want to be sure if the smartwatch needs a smartphone that they are compatible with each other.
The Mechanics of the Smartwatch and Options to Consider
How long can you go in between charges? On average, a smartwatch battery charge usually lasts 1 to 2 days. How is this important in your purchase?
Let’s say the smartwatch has a battery charge lasting 18 hours. Not a problem unless you are planning to monitor your sleep – your smartwatch could stop working in the middle of the night. So just keep in mind if you do have a lower battery charge life that you will need to recharge it during the day in this type of situation. Not necessarily a deal-breaker but something to keep in mind.
By the way, do you know that the more features that are used on a smartwatch, the faster your battery can drain?
Cellular Connectivity allows your smartwatch to link up to your phone carrier’s data plan without your phone connection. For instance, you want to go outside for a walk and listen to music or send a text message. With cellular connectivity, you can do so even with leaving your phone at home.
Having cellular connectivity does come with a price. The smartwatch itself will cost more than one without cellular connectivity. Also, there will be an added expense with your phone provider. So before jumping to buy a smartwatch that comes with cellular connectivity, be sure you contact your phone provider and find out how much extra it would cost to add cellular connectivity to your plan.
The extra cost may not be worth it for some people, but for others, the convenience of not having to take your phone with you is a benefit they find worth it.
GPS or Global Positioning System is a global navigation satellite system that provides location, velocity, and time synchronization – basically where you are on this wonderful planet called Earth.
There are two types of GPS – connected and built-in.
Connected GPS means you will need to piggyback off your smartphone’s connection and have the phone on you for the GPS to work on your watch.
With built-in GPS, the censors are built inside the device (meaning you won’t need your phone for GPS to operate).
Again, this is a personal choice of your lifestyle, what you want to use your smartwatch for, and too the extra cost. If you don’t mind carrying your phone with you or prefer to for safety reasons, then connected GPS might be the way to go. However, if you want to have the freedom to go out without your phone, you want to consider built-in GPS.
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the technical aspects of a smartwatch let’s move on to what this article is intended for. Let’s take a look at some of the health metric options available on smartwatches.
Remember, no smartwatch can diagnose any medical issues you may have. Every smartwatch I’ve seen and reviewed gives a medical disclaimer. Smartwatches are not for making health decisions, and you always want to seek your doctor’s advice.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) App
Newer to the scene are those smartwatches that monitor your heart and may detect overlooked heart abnormalities that could lead to a heart attack.
How does the electrocardiogram app work? Unlike a medical ECG, where you have electrodes placed on specific areas of your body, the ECG on smartphones has you place your finger on the device. It then reads the data and may detect if you have an abnormal heartbeat.
Some smartwatches with ECG have been cleared by the FDA to detect atrial fibrillation. Two companies that have been FDA cleared for this type of detection are Apple and Samsung. Other companies are still pending FDA approval.
So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that can cause irregular and abnormally fast heartbeat. It’s common and potentially deadly. It’s also intermittent, which makes it difficult to detect.
What makes the ECG app a plus is that you can have the watch on you, and the ECG can be activated if you are experiencing symptoms or feeling something just isn’t right. The watch then records your reading, and you can take it to the doctor for further insight.
Personal ECG devices are proven to save lives, but on the flip-side, they can still miss major problems or cause someone to believe they have issues with their heart when they don’t.
And again, remember these devices are not made to give any type of medical diagnosis. You do want to see your doctor for any health issues and questions. It can’t be relied upon to detect all heart rhythm abnormalities – or worsening heart problems. It also can’t be relied upon to detect the electrical changes that take place during a heart attack or abnormal heart structure.
Most smartwatches use what is called PPG or photoplethysmography to calculate heart rate. What occurs is a small green light is projected onto the skin. Whatever light isn’t absorbed is reflected back to the sensor, which in turn then calculates heart rate.
Some watches are more accurate than others in calculating heart rate.
Monitoring blood pressure is pretty new to the smartwatch world. What a significant advancement this has been for many people. Being able to track blood pressure outside of the doctor’s office is so convenient.
Many people, including about ⅓ of all Americans, suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension has been linked with heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, and other disorders when it isn’t adequately managed.
Some studies show that blood pressure taken with a smartwatch is not accurate. As more smartwatches become FDA approved, I’m sure this will change.
Temperature readings allow your body temperature to be detected by an algorithm and then analyzed to give you the output. If you have a condition where monitoring your temperature is essential, if you want to keep an eye on your temperature while sick, taking medication, or even tracking a rise in temperature, then this would be a feature to look for.
Smartwatches use what is known as an SP02 (oxygen saturation) sensor to measure your blood oxygen saturation level. The sensor uses light sensors to detect oxygen levels. It then delivers the data to the device’s screen, which will tell you the percentage of oxygen in your blood.
Oxygen levels can be taken two ways depending on the watch. One is to check manually by placing your finger on the device, and the other is for the smartwatch to periodically check on its own, for instance, during sleep.
People with breathing problems during sleep, be it from sleep apnea or COPD many times, have low oxygen levels in their blood. As a result of not breathing for 30 seconds or more during sleep, sleep apnea oxygen levels can drop to 80% or less. If left untreated or undetected, it’s a disorder that could increase the risk of high blood pressure and obesity and can even cause a heart attack. Many people are not aware they have sleep apnea, but monitoring SP02 levels during sleep can signal there is something going on that needs to be checked out.
Respiratory rate is also known as your breathing rate. This is the number of breaths you take per minute. Each breath, or respiration, has two phases, inhalation, and exhalation. Oxygen is brought into your lungs during inhalation and transported throughout your body in the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide is then eliminated and dispersed from your lungs during exhalation.
If you’re a rapid breather monitoring your respiratory rate can be useful and give you knowledge when you need to breathe deeply. It can also be used in monitoring your sleep patterns.
With an emergency SOS feature, you can send your current location to emergency responders or a particular contact. A great feature if you find yourself alone outside or even in your home and need assistance.
Fall Down Detection
Fall detection activates if you were to suffer a hard fall while wearing the smartwatch. It can help you connect to emergency services or your emergency contact. If movement isn’t detected after 1 minute, some watches will call emergency services for you and let your emergency contact know that they did.
You can find smartwatches that monitor health metrics in a wide range of prices. Always be mindful of what you can and cannot afford. I recommend looking at the features available and making a list of the most important ones to you. As you’re looking at purchasing one, if the price is too high, look at what features you can do without seeing if that will lower the cost.
Compared to days gone by nowadays, you can feel comfortable wearing your smartwatch as your everyday watch.
Most smartwatches come with a variety of faces that you can change by a tap. Bands can be made of, but not limited to, silicone, plastic, leather, polyurethane rubber, nylon, mesh, and even stainless steel. When looking at purchasing your smartwatch, consider if it’s one you can see wearing everywhere. With a variety of faces and band types available, you’ll surely find one that you like.
The size of the smartwatch face is something you want to take into consideration. There are a variety of sizes 38, 40. 42 or 44 mm being the more common. Some women prefer the smaller face and the larger is perfect for men. However, this again is an individual choice and women also enjoy the larger face size as it’s easier to see.
Having a smartwatch can be fun, educational, giving you the information you want, be it activity monitoring, health monitoring, or just plain convenience. However, having one that is user friendly can make all the difference in the world. It can be the make or break in the deal for actually using it.
When researching and shopping for your smartwatch, look at how user friendly it is. If you’re tech-savvy, this might not be a contributing factor in your purchase. If you’re like many of us, it should be. No sense in spending the money on a smartwatch if you cannot understand or learn how to use it.
Since this article’s aim is to give the reader a look at the health metrics that accompany some smartwatches, I have focused on that. But don’t think that a smartwatch that monitors health metrics is all it can do. Though there are a few that do that and nothing else, many have other features as well. Some of these features are texting, streaming music, phone use, contacts, time, calendar, games, pedometers, fitness trackers, calorie counters, and many more.
With all products, features can change, so before purchasing, be sure the features that attracted you to the product are still the same.
When looking for your perfect smartwatch, take the features discussed in Smartwatches With Health Metrics (2021 Buying Guide) into consideration. With this knowledge, you will make a more informed decision in your purchase of a smartwatch that monitors health metrics.
If you have had any experience wearing or purchasing a smartwatch and would like to share, please comment below.