With epilepsy since 2018 and without much success with treatment, British Eileen Thompson, 59, could have been saved by an alert from her smart watch. The woman began using the Apple Watch in February 2022 at the suggestion of her daughter; the goal was to keep up with typical bouts of illness, but she ended up indicating another serious health problem.
In April, Elaine receives a notification from the machine warning her of an irregular heart rhythm and that she needs to see a doctor urgently. The British went to the specialist and performed a series of tests, but no heart problem was found. Sure enough, she agreed to the health regimen of wearing a heart monitor that would record her heartbeat over a period of time.
The device detected that she had not had a heartbeat for 19 seconds while she was sleeping. Elaine was diagnosed with heart block, a dangerous type of arrhythmia that affects the heart’s ability to pump due to a disruption in the heart’s electrical system. Some of the main symptoms are fatigue, nausea, and fainting.
Heart blocks are rated on a scale of one to three and can be life-threatening in some cases. Elaine fears that she “would have died” if the watch hadn’t detected the fault.
The disorder can develop throughout life, but some patients are born with the condition. The most common causes of blockage are:
- Idiopathic fibrosis and sclerosis of the conduction system (about half of the patients);
- Ischemic heart disease;
- Use of certain medications (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin, and amiodarone, for example);
- Increased tone of the vagus nerve;
- Valve disease;
- Congenital, genetic or other types of heart disease;
The diagnosis of a mass is usually made by an electrocardiogram (ECG). Symptoms and treatment depend on the degree of the problem; in Elaine’s case, a pacemaker was required to control her heartbeat.
“The doctors said I needed a pacemaker and we had already scheduled my surgery for the next day. I’m going to wear it for the rest of my life, but it’s comforting to know that I tried to solve the problem: if I didn’t go to the doctor, I could die ”, he says in an interview with The Sun newspaper.