Garmin, a leading manufacturer of GPS and wearable devices, has announced that it is expanding its electrocardiogram (ECG) feature to more smartwatch models in the US. The ECG feature allows users to record their heart rhythm and check for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a common condition that can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
What is ECG and why is it important?
ECG stands for electrocardiogram, which is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. By placing electrodes on the chest or wrist, an ECG can detect the heart rate, rhythm, and any abnormalities. An ECG can help diagnose various heart conditions, such as arrhythmias, heart attacks, or heart failure.
One of the most common types of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (AFib), which occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly and out of sync with the lower chambers. AFib can cause symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain. However, some people with AFib may not experience any symptoms at all, making it hard to detect and treat.
AFib can increase the risk of blood clots forming in the heart, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. According to the American Heart Association, AFib is responsible for about 15-20% of all strokes in the US. AFib can also lead to heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Therefore, having an ECG feature on a smartwatch can be a useful tool for monitoring one’s heart health and detecting signs of AFib. By taking a 30-second reading with the watch, users can see if their heart rhythm is normal or irregular, and store the data in the Garmin Connect app for later review or sharing with their doctor.
Which Garmin smartwatches have the ECG feature?
Garmin first introduced the ECG feature on its Venu 2 Plus smartwatch in August 2023. The Venu 2 Plus is a premium fitness-focused smartwatch with a 1.3-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, GPS, SpO2 sensor, body battery monitor, stress tracker, sleep score, and more than 25 sports modes.
Now, Garmin has expanded the ECG feature to four more smartwatch models: Fenix 7 Pro, Epix Pro, Tactix 7 AMOLED, and Venu 3/3S. These models use Garmin’s Elevate V5 optical heart rate sensor package, which enables ECG functionality.
- Fenix 7 Pro: The Fenix 7 Pro is a rugged multisport smartwatch with a 1.4-inch transflective display, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/QZSS/IRNSS/NavIC support, solar charging, SpO2 sensor, barometric altimeter, gyroscope, compass, thermometer, pulse oximeter, and over 50 sports modes.
- Epix Pro: The Epix Pro is an adventure-ready smartwatch with a 1.4-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/QZSS/IRNSS/NavIC support, solar charging, SpO2 sensor, barometric altimeter, gyroscope, compass, thermometer, pulse oximeter, and over 50 sports modes.
- Tactix 7 AMOLED: The Tactix 7 AMOLED is a tactical smartwatch with a 1.4-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/QZSS/IRNSS/NavIC support, solar charging, SpO2 sensor, barometric altimeter, gyroscope, compass, thermometer, pulse oximeter, night vision mode, stealth mode, kill switch, and over 50 sports modes.
- Venu 3/3S: The Venu 3/3S are fitness-oriented smartwatches with a 1.1-inch (3S) or 1.3-inch (3) AMOLED touchscreen display, GPS, SpO2 sensor, body battery monitor, stress tracker, sleep score, and more than 25 sports modes.
How to use the ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches?
To use the ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches, users need to physically be in the US during the initial setup, have one of the compatible watches, and update their Garmin watch and app firmware. Once activated, the ECG feature can be used anywhere in the world without any issues.
To take an ECG reading with the watch, users need to follow these steps:
- Open the ECG app on the watch
- Sit still and relax
- Place their index finger and thumb on opposite corners of the watch bezel
- Wait for 30 seconds until the recording is complete
- View the result on the watch or in the Garmin Connect app
The ECG app can show one of three results:
- Normal sinus rhythm: This means the heart is beating in a normal pattern
- Atrial fibrillation: This means the heart is beating irregularly and may indicate a serious condition
- Inconclusive: This means the reading was not clear and may need to be repeated
The ECG app cannot detect signs of a heart attack, blood clots, or stroke. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. It is only a tool for monitoring one’s heart health and should not replace regular check-ups with a doctor.
What are the benefits and limitations of the ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches?
The ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches can offer several benefits for users who want to keep track of their heart health and detect signs of AFib. Some of the benefits are:
- Convenience: Users can take an ECG reading anytime and anywhere with their watch, without needing any additional equipment or wires
- Accuracy: The ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches has been clinically validated and cleared by the FDA as a medical device, meaning it meets the standards for safety and effectiveness
- Data storage: Users can store their ECG data in the Garmin Connect app for later review or sharing with their doctor
- Data analysis: Users can see trends and patterns in their heart rhythm over time and get insights into their heart health
However, the ECG feature on Garmin smartwatches also has some limitations that users should be aware of. Some of the limitations are:
- Availability: The ECG feature is currently only available in the US, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, due to regulatory approvals in other countries
- Compatibility: The ECG feature is only compatible with five Garmin smartwatch models that use the Elevate V5 optical heart rate sensor package
- Reliability: The ECG feature may not work well if the watch is not worn properly, if there is interference from other devices, or if there are other factors that affect the quality of the signal
- Responsibility: The ECG feature is not a substitute for professional medical advice or care. Users should always consult their doctor if they have any concerns or questions about their heart health
Garmin has added the ECG feature to more smartwatch models in the US, allowing users to record their heart rhythm and check for signs of AFib. The ECG feature can be a useful tool for monitoring one’s heart health and detecting potential problems. However, it also has some limitations and should not replace regular visits to the doctor.