The future of fitness trackers could go well beyond keeping you active
Your fitness tracker may know even more about your health than you think. New research found that the heart rate sensors in wearables like Apple Watches and Fitbitscan help detect early signs of diabetes with surprising accuracy.
Conducted by the heart rate tracking app Cardiogram and the University of California San Francisco, the study analyzed data from 14,000 fitness tracker users. When heart rate data from those devices was processed by Cardiogram's DeepHeart app, DeepHeart was able to identify wearers with and without diabetes with 85 percent accuracy.
The research was presented at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence in New Orleans this week.
So what does heart rate have to do with diabetes? As Techcrunch pointed out, the 2015 Framingham Heart Study found that resting heart rate and heart rate variability — in other words, the variation in the time between heartbeats — can predict whether people will develop diabetes. Those findings inspired researchers to see what they could glean from the heart rate sensors in popular fitness trackers.
"Twenty-four percent of people with diabetes, and 88.4 percent with pre-diabetes, don't realize they have it," Cardiogram CEO Brandon Ballinger told MobiHealthNews. "We don't want to turn people into patients, but by catching diabetes early, we can guide people to convenient treatments they can perform in their everyday lives, like diabetes prevention programs."
According to the CDC, 84 million people in the United States have pre-diabetes, and 90 percent of those people don't know they have it. On top of that, 30 million people in the United States already have diabetes, and 1 in 4 don't know they have it.
This isn't the first time the app's researching has turned out some impressive health data. Last May, researchers again from Cardiogram and UCSF published a study in which they were able to detect hypertension and sleep apnea in users with over 90 percent accuracy.