While your Apple Watch makes it easy to make calls, check your messages, and access many of your phone’s essential features on the go, it’s a far more powerful tool than you may have realized. Apple provides a potentially life-saving suite of features that offer access to vital information about your health, much of it in real-time.
We take a look at the wide range of health conditions your Apple Watch can help you monitor.
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An average healthy adult's heart will beat more than 100,000 times. And Apple has a suite of heart rate features that not only measure those heartbeats but will also provide insights into the health picture they provide.
Resting Heart Rate
Your Apple Watch will track your heart rate constantly as you wear it. You can check this anytime using the Heart Rate app on your watch. Look for the icon with a white heart on a red button. This gives access to your current heart rate, along with resting, walking, workout, and recovery rates for the day.
You’ll be able to analyze this data and detailed breakdowns of all the other health metrics covered within this list in the Health app on your iPhone.
High and Low Heart Rate Notifications
Your Apple Watch can notify you if your heart rate stays above or below your selected beats per minute (bpm) as long as you have turned on notifications within the Apple Watch Heart Rate app or via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
I can attest to how valuable this tool is. Recently, a family member with a history of heart issues received this notification from their Apple Watch while attending a big sporting event. They took a few moments to recover, potentially averting a more serious crisis.
Irregular Heart Rhythm
Your Apple Watch will also check your heartbeat for irregular heart rhythms, which may indicate atrial fibrillation or AFib. Again, you’ll need to enable this feature. It’s not available in all regions, so check the Apple website to see whether you can benefit.
The AFib History feature, first introduced in watchOS 9, enables you to track how frequently your heart rhythm shows signs of irregularities. You can monitor this in the Health app on your iPhone, where you’ll also be able to record lifestyle factors that may have influenced AFib.
Apple Watch Series 3 or later can track your cardio fitness (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume during exercise) by using the heart and motion sensors to measure how hard your heart is working during an outdoor walk, outdoor run, or hike that you record in the Workout app.
If your cardio fitness levels fall below the expectation for your age and sex, you’ll receive a notification. Since cardio fitness is an excellent indicator of overall physical health, no one should overlook this metric. You can also see your cardio fitness levels on your iPhone.
Use the Noise app on your Apple Watch Series 4 or later to measure the current sound levels around you. Your watch uses the microphone to do this; although it only measures the environmental sound levels, it doesn’t record them.
On your Apple Watch, you’ll find the Noise app denoted with an ear symbol on a yellow icon. Alternatively, add a Noise complication to your watch face to view this information instantly.
Enable noise notifications to warn you when your watch identifies a decibel level in your environment that may affect your hearing so you can move away to protect your aural health. You can control what decibel level to set as your noise threshold right from your watch.
Blood Oxygen Saturation
If you have Apple Watch Series 6 or later, you can measure your blood oxygen on your Apple Watch. Knowing how much oxygen your red blood cells carry from your lungs to the rest of your body is an excellent wellness metric.
A red and blue circle on a white background denotes the app. To get an accurate reading, you’ll need to follow the directions carefully because this measurement is not taken while you’re on the move. Instead, you’ll need to sit still with your arm supported on a table or your lap for a 15-second countdown. All measurements are stored in your Apple Health app on your iPhone.
Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra models contain two temperature sensors to gather your wrist temperature while you sleep. After about five nights of recording data, the Apple Watch will determine your baseline wrist temperature and track any nightly changes.
Through the Cycle Tracking app, women can use this temperature data to get important help in predicting menstruation and ovulation cycles.
Menstruation and Ovulation
Even if you don’t own an Apple Watch with the temperature tracking feature enabled, there’s still plenty of support for recording details of your menstrual health within the Cycle Tracking app. The app allows you to log your period easily by tapping the date and then the oval that appears. You can add more detail by scrolling down to the Symptoms and Spotting sections.
Use the Health app on your iPhone to analyze this data and add further detail, export it, or use it to set period and fertility tracking notifications.
Sleep is essential, so allowing your Apple Watch to record key information about your sleep can reveal valuable health insights.
Sleep Tracking and Schedules
The Sleep app, denoted by a bed symbol, allows you to create sleep schedules, set your sleep duration goal, and track your sleep hours. Wear your Apple Watch to bed, and the sleep tracking function uses your motion to detect sleep when the Sleep Focus mode is active. Learn more about how to use the Sleep app for Apple Watch.
The Sleep Stages feature, introduced in watchOS 9, provides an in-depth analysis of your sleep quality, including the duration spent in each of the different stages: awake, REM sleep, core sleep, and deep sleep.
As with so many features on this list, you can drill down into the bigger picture of your sleep health via the Apple Health app on your iPhone. This is particularly important for sleep because anyone can have a restless night occasionally. However, if you consistently fail to achieve enough quality sleep over a more extended period, you’ll know you need to address the issue.
Sleep Respiratory Rate
If you’re using Apple Watch 3 or later, you can also view your Respiratory Rate. This measurement of how many times you breathe in a minute while asleep is not only a good measure of your lung health, but it can also detect signs of sleep apnea. This is when your breathing stops and starts abruptly while you sleep.
The Sleep Foundation reports that the respiratory date during sleep in healthy adults should be 15 to 16 times per minute, while for adults over 60, a range of 12 to 28 breaths per minute is normal. If your sleep patterns fall outside these ranges, it could be time to consult a medical professional.
Your Apple Watch has a built-in Fall Detection function that might prove vital if you take a fall. If your watch detects this happened, it will ask if you’re okay. If you don’t respond after a time, your Apple Watch will call emergency services. If you’ve set up your emergency contacts, one of the best ways to prepare your Apple Watch for emergencies, they’ll also be called.
Other Medical Information via Your Medical ID
Although the list of health conditions here is pretty comprehensive, there’s one more vital step you should take to enable you to manage your health on your Apple Watch: setting up your Medical ID.
Medical ID tells people the most important medical information they may need to know about you in an emergency, including your conditions, medication, allergies, and organ donor preferences.
You can learn how to set up Medical ID on your iPhone or Apple Watch and how to find someone’s Medical ID, and then hope you never actually need it!
Keep Track of Your Health With Your Apple Watch
Apple’s hardware and software innovations have provided the tools to monitor multiple health conditions on your Apple Watch and delve further into the details in the accompanying Health app on your iPhone.
Of course, your Apple Watch is not a medical device, so if you have cause for concern about any aspect of your health, consult a medical professional. Still, being armed with so much information can only be positive. It will help you see what is helping your well-being and alert you about concerns. In the case of a medical emergency, your Apple Watch could even provide life-saving details.