Apple Watch and staying alive - a reluctant wearer's conversion

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited June 21
"It's probably nothing, but I want you to wear an Apple Watch to watch your heart and sleep for a while," the doctor said.




It's probably not surprising that writing online for a living is a mostly sedentary profession. Until now, my doctor likened my health to my old car -- runs fine, works pretty well, but the scars are apparent, and the finish isn't great anymore.

While I've only been tech writing for nine years internet-facing, I've been doing it for much longer than that, in parallel with time in Apple hardware service, tech support, and consulting. At least the service jobs were mostly standing.

And, I'm notably over 50. After a decade in the Navy spanning the entire '90s -- and honestly, including those years -- time has not been what you'd call kind.

Like it or not, with a few simple words from a doctor, I'm back on the Apple Watch. Not necessarily by choice, but for the greater good regardless.

Mike and the Apple Watch

I'm not late to the Apple Watch party. I've had three and tried to take it up four times, with the original, an Apple Watch Series 3 (twice), and now a Series 6. Each time, I gave it the old college try, and each time I bounced off it pretty profoundly. Being an expert on the device is part of the job, after all.

For me, as I've said before, it was a little too far down the chain for daily or continuous use. I'm Mac-centric with my work production and a media consumer, mostly on iOS and iPadOS. So, the Apple Watch pre-cardiac monitoring order, was an unnecessary adjunct, and frankly, invasive and painful.

But now, like that old car metaphor that my doctor uses uncomfortably often, the engine might be getting a little rough. So it's not exactly as easy to take it apart and fix what's wrong, like my Hyundai from nearly the turn of the century.

So, here we are.

Doctors and the Apple Watch

I'm not sure if my doctor is an outlier. There have been several op-eds from doctors complaining that they'll see more people scared by what they see on the Apple Watch, and seek treatment. Those same doctors claim that the doctor's office visit is unnecessary and a waste of time.

I don't see any of them complaining about billing for the appointment, though. It's not like the visits are free if there's nothing wrong at the point of care.

Speaking as a consumer deeply embedded in the healthcare system because of family health issues, I think that these doctors crying about new patients getting proactive health care is short-sighted and overly traditional. Nobody is calling the Apple Watch equivalent to a 16-channel EEG system, and it is a point of data that can be used in that healthcare.

And, most Americans eschew preventative care, fearing the bills even with good insurance. But, Pre-care is very nearly always less expensive than post-incident care, and the added costs of false alarms is worth it.

And, in my case, a false alarm for something else led to the discovery that it was probably time to get that ongoing cardiac, blood pressure, and sleep data from the Apple Watch.

It's been six years, why now?

The Apple Watch was launched as a fashion accessory a bit more than six years ago. At the time, there were dozens of features about Apple's focus on the device as a fashion accessory. I've reviewed a few of the Apple Watch models across the years, but they never stayed on my wrist.

It took about two more years after that 2015 debut and my original review in a now-shuttered venue for Apple to re-position it as a health monitor, and that's mostly what I'll be using it for. I was given the choice of other monitors, but terms of service from Apple's competitors about use and sharing of health data for this reason or that, even anonymized, didn't fill me with a great deal of confidence that it was going to go that well.

Going forward, I'll be talking about what I'm using it for, how I accessorize it, and how workflows effectively carved in stone tablets carried down from the mount have adapted. I already have discovered that one of my pain points with wearing an Apple Watch all day -- a buckle or connector right on my wrist flat on my desk -- has a good workaround. I'm using both an inexpensive and washable desk mat that you've seen in reviews I've written and a very affordable third-party band to solve those problems.

Over time, we'll be talking about communications, Apple's Health, medical record sharing, mass transit use, and more that some of the long-term Apple Watch users will be familiar with -- but the newer folks to the platform aren't.

And, in case you were wondering, I'm fine -- today. The data that we'll collect with the Apple Watch will help make sure that I stay that way.

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rundhvidDogpersonmuthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacjahblade
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    I remember when the ECG feature was first announced there was a bit of skepticism about the product actually doing what it claimed and  some concern about doctors offices being flooded with false positives and the like but I haven’t seen much follow up on the subject since. I’m inclined to think that means the fears never manifested themselves.

    I can give my experience. I could feel my heart doing something funky and decided to use the ECG feature as a way to reassure myself it wasn’t serious. That isn’t the most sound thinking but it was 2 in the morning and funky heart woke me up. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Anyway, the watch said i was in afib. So I hauled myself to to the ER and was admitted, the watch was correct. When the doctor came in she literally asked “Did you use the watch to tell that you had afib?”, Kinda sheepishly I said “Yes” and she said, “Everone I have had come in because of their watch has actually had it, I didn’t think it would work that well”.  As a follow up I had to start seeing a cardiologist and a similar thing happened with him. He said “When they announced that feature I thought it was bullshit and there is no way it would work. It totally works.”  In dealing with my off and on heart funkyness he has just relayed on the watch for monitoring and the PDFs generated by the health app. No other equipment needed. So in my limited sample the doctors seem to see on team watch with one being an admitted skeptic. Not bad. 
  • Reply 2 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,188administrator
    I remember when the ECG feature was first announced there was a bit of skepticism about the product actually doing what it claimed and  some concern about doctors offices being flooded with false positives and the like but I haven’t seen much follow up on the subject since. I’m inclined to think that means the fears never manifested themselves.

    I can give my experience. I could feel my heart doing something funky and decided to use the ECG feature as a way to reassure myself it wasn’t serious. That isn’t the most sound thinking but it was 2 in the morning and funky heart woke me up. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Anyway, the watch said i was in afib. So I hauled myself to to the ER and was admitted, the watch was correct. When the doctor came in she literally asked “Did you use the watch to tell that you had afib?”, Kinda sheepishly I said “Yes” and she said, “Everone I have had come in because of their watch has actually had it, I didn’t think it would work that well”.  As a follow up I had to start seeing a cardiologist and a similar thing happened with him. He said “When they announced that feature I thought it was bullshit and there is no way it would work. It totally works.”  In dealing with my off and on heart funkyness he has just relayed on the watch for monitoring and the PDFs generated by the health app. No other equipment needed. So in my limited sample the doctors seem to see on team watch with one being an admitted skeptic. Not bad. 
    Sporadic problems are the worst to figure out, no matter if it's hardware, software, or people.
    GeorgeBMacCloudTalkindysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 30
    I've had a somewhat similar experience. For a couple months I'd occasionally get a rapid heart beat (usually around bedtime). I'd test w/ my watch - generally high 90's to low 100's (my sleep rate normally mid 50's). I never got the afib warning while using the Apple Watch ECG. On the fateful morning a few weeks ago I had a seizure (unrelated). My wife drove me to the ER after I'd come to my senses. On the way, my Apple Watch warned me about the fast heart rate. I did the ECG test in the passenger seat - afib. ER confirmed it once they hooked me up. Got to stay the night (having an old condition resurface with a brand new condition along side == let's monitor a bit)... they had a great keto menu.
    macplusplusjahbladeviclauyycdysamoriajony0
  • Reply 4 of 30
    TRAGTRAG Posts: 24member
    I enjoy these ‘peek behind the curtain’ articles.  Same with the ones about AI staffer home working set ups, thoughts on events etc.

    More importantly, fair play Mike for opening up and sharing. Glad to hear you are ok, long may it continue.
    roundaboutnowhammeroftruthelijahgGeorgeBMacjahbladeCloudTalkindysamoriajony0
  • Reply 5 of 30
    Mike, if "a buckle or connector right on my wrist flat on my desk" is uncomfortable, the third-party band you bought doesn't look like it would be much better. Why don't you get one of Apple's Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop bands, or a third-party equivalent, which have no buckles or clasps at all?
    tjwolfGeorgeBMacjahblade
  • Reply 6 of 30
    thttht Posts: 3,976member
    Yeah, words like that from the doctor suck. You never want to hear a doctor say, "it's probably nothing, but..." Hopefully you can just stay chill about it.

    I think I can credit my Apple Watch as the thing that finally pushed me over the hump on continually exercising, and stopping the inertia of middle age weight gain. Lots of starts and stops in the past, but the Watch with the closing ring features combined with cordless earbuds finally made running something that wasn't tortuous, so it's been all very fruitful for me. I could listen to podcasts and music without holding a phone or have dangling cords. That made the difference.

    Commit to always closing the rings. Set modest goals, and always close them. Have a heavy exercise day, then a light exercise day or two to recover. The ring goals are for your light exercise days, not your heavy day. Only do a little more than what you think you can do. Always do exercise first thing in the morning. This is the main thing. Always close the rings.

    Not sure it will help any potential cardiac issues though.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 30
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,613member
    The health functions are why I got an AW6. 

    Mike, if "a buckle or connector right on my wrist flat on my desk" is uncomfortable, the third-party band you bought doesn't look like it would be much better. Why don't you get one of Apple's Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop bands, or a third-party equivalent, which have no buckles or clasps at all?
    That's what I did I have a braided solo loop now and I almost forget I have it on. Almost, because it’s helping me track my workouts, and nagging me to move more, so I’ve lost 30 lb. Now the one I have is a touch too loose and slides up my wrist. 
    edited June 21
  • Reply 8 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,188administrator
    Mike, if "a buckle or connector right on my wrist flat on my desk" is uncomfortable, the third-party band you bought doesn't look like it would be much better. Why don't you get one of Apple's Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop bands, or a third-party equivalent, which have no buckles or clasps at all?
    Because the tightening connector is on the side of my wrist facing away from me, and not downward-facing. You can see the edge of it in the article's picture.

    One of Apple's Solo bands is on my list, but $8 or so for a proof of concept seemed like a pretty safe gamble.
    jahbladedysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 30
    rundhvidrundhvid Posts: 56member
    Insightful and inspiring—thank you very much 🙏

    But, Pre-care is very nearly always less expensive than post-incident care, and the added costs of false alarms is worth it.
    —if only those with the means (and the responsibility) to set in motion a long overdue revision of the health care system, would take a minute to reflect on this. Perhaps a granddaughter could assist—it is not rocket science but quite intuitive: do you prefer risk of sudden onset of life threatening illness, or periodic consultations with your doctor thereby facilitating detection of early warning signs and implementation of preventive measures which—in many cases—will mitigate risk of severe health problems.
    sconosciutodysamoriajony0
  • Reply 10 of 30
    h4y3sh4y3s Posts: 52member
    Thanks Mike. Good luck!
  • Reply 11 of 30
    iOS_Guy80iOS_Guy80 Posts: 482member
    Close those rings. I have successfully closed them for a year and a half. Take advantage of the Apple Health challenges to score those cool little sticker/awards. Take an ECG and Blood Oxygen reading daily. Turn on the fall detection feature. Log your health info in the medical ID. That is just some of the health uses. Make phone calls, receive phone calls, read text, respond to texts with voice recognition. Apple Pay and the passes with your reward cards, airline tickets and transit passes, on your wrist. Covid cards, new driver license features in iOS 15 and future passport features. Apple Maps with right and left turn notifications on your wrist is very slick.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 30
    I have had just about every generation of Apple Watch since the 1st on I skipped the 5. But I got the 6 because of the SPO2 monitor. 
    I love this thing. I have sickle cell anemia and have to go to the hospital for outpatient procedures every 3 weeks. And every time I go I check the O2 sensor and the heart rate monitor against their machines. The watch’s heart rate is always spot on and the O2 is too or off by only +/-1 degree. These things are amazing little machines. I have had a couple of acute chest scares and the ecg feature was always in sync with the 16 lead machines. 
    Stay strong mike you’ve got this! 
    rundhviddysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 30
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,045member
    Glad to hear you’re fine Mike. Dr’s sometimes can seem to overreact to signs or hunches that you might have an issue. They’d rather be wrong, then right and you sick or worse. I had a similar issue about 12 years ago. I had my family Dr. perform an ECG as a routine check. He was concerned after the test about my “Q” wave being abnormal and I should go see a cardiologist and get it checked out.

    What the hell is a Q wave I thought? So I did the worst thing and looked it up online where I found out an abnormal Q wave is usually caused by a genetic disorder and could result in nothing or sudden death. Sudden death? Wtf? I thought that was a term only used in sports? For weeks I was terrified, and I had made an appointment with one of the best cardiologists in the state later on in the month.

    Well, after a few weeks I ended up having to go to the ER, not because of my Q wave, but because of my addiction to espressos and I had 3 shots within 30 minutes and felt like I was having a heart attack. The paramedics came, were worried about my heart rate and took me to the hospital. 

    At the hospital, they hooked me up to a bunch of machines to monitor my heart, and ran a bunch of tests.  The funniest part was when the ER Dr. asked me, “Do you do cocaine?”  “What?!  No!, Why would you ask me that?” I replied. “Because I can’t find anything wrong with your heart.”
    I told him that I drank a lot of espresso and was probably dehydrated and he replied, “That would make you feel like you’re having a heart attack, so lay off the coffee for awhile.”
    The kicker was when I asked him about the abnormal Q wave my Dr. said I had he replied “Nah, your Q wave is normal, they hooked you up wrong.” He then showed me on the little
    receipt paper it prints out. 

    I’ve had the original Apple watch and now the series 4. I think the breathe app will do more for you as a start, than you miraculously start using the fitness app and running 20 miles a day. It’s a good place to start and who knows, you might start logging in those time to walk workouts. 
    rundhvidviclauyycdysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 30
    rundhvid said:
    Insightful and inspiring—thank you very much 🙏

    But, Pre-care is very nearly always less expensive than post-incident care, and the added costs of false alarms is worth it.
    —if only those with the means (and the responsibility) to set in motion a long overdue revision of the health care system, would take a minute to reflect on this. Perhaps a granddaughter could assist—it is not rocket science but quite intuitive: do you prefer risk of sudden onset of life threatening illness, or periodic consultations with your doctor thereby facilitating detection of early warning signs and implementation of preventive measures which—in many cases—will mitigate risk of severe health problems.
    One of many ways in which America's for-profit healthcare system is a massive and costly failure. Insurance companies are disincentivized to fund comprehensive preventive care since they may never see the benefits 10 to 20 years down the road when you could well be with a different employer who uses a different insurer. Those with poor or no health insurance often won't seek preventive care at all.
    rundhvidGeorgeBMacviclauyycdysamoriajony0
  • Reply 15 of 30
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 378member
    DAalseth said:
    The health functions are why I got an AW6. 

    Mike, if "a buckle or connector right on my wrist flat on my desk" is uncomfortable, the third-party band you bought doesn't look like it would be much better. Why don't you get one of Apple's Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop bands, or a third-party equivalent, which have no buckles or clasps at all?
    That's what I did I have a braided solo loop now and I almost forget I have it on. Almost, because it’s helping me track my workouts, and nagging me to move more, so I’ve lost 30 lb. Now the one I have is a touch too loose and slides up my wrist. 
    I'm also very sensitive to bands under my wrist (as a lazy s/w developer, my wrists are always resting on either a desk or laptop surface) and even the Apple bands without a clasp or buckle (e.g. the sport band, milanese loop, and braided loop) were still annoying - just because they were too thick.  For the past couple years, I've been wearing cheap elastic nylon loops I buy off Amazon.  The thinner they look, the better.  The nicer bands are now relegated for use when I go on vacation.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,769member


    And, most Americans eschew preventative care, fearing the bills even with good insurance. But, Pre-care is very nearly always less expensive than post-incident care, and the added costs of false alarms is worth it.

    And, in my case, a false alarm for something else led to the discovery that it was probably time to get that ongoing cardiac, blood pressure, and sleep data from the Apple Watch.
    Preventive Care is by far the cheapest and the best.  But, what the American healthcare system calls "preventive" is actually just early (or earlier) detection of disease.  It's not preventive.

    That is, the American "healthcare" system (which is owned and operated by MBA's rather than MDs) doesn't provide or support preventive care -- because actual preventive care means they lose revenue:  "The money's not in healthy people, nor is it in dead people.  The money is in the living but sick".   So they search out the sick and try to keep them alive for a couple more decades.

    We've known for more than 40 years that most heart conditions, cancers, type 2 Diabetes, arthritis, etc... can be prevented from ever happening by invoking a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise, stress reduction and human connection.

    Further, it is estimated that 80% of our healthcare spending goes to treat chronic diseases -- and that 80% of those diseases could be prevented through healthy living (which is true "Preventive Care") -- the kind of healthy living / preventive care that the Apple Watch promotes.  Conversely, the American healthcare system is almost completely helpless to cure those diseases -- instead it merely manages their symptoms while the disease itself rages on.   

    From my own experience as a Home Health nurse I came to recognize that most of my patients could not only not be helped by the medical industry, but they had gotten to that point by failing to take care of themselves in the decades prior.  And, I saw myself at the top of that same slippery slope.   So, now I workout nearly every day, eat right, reduce stress, do my best to get adequate sleep -- and wear my Apple Watch 23 hours day -- it only comes off for charging.

    muthuk_vanalingamdysamoria
  • Reply 17 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,769member
    I remember when the ECG feature was first announced there was a bit of skepticism about the product actually doing what it claimed and  some concern about doctors offices being flooded with false positives and the like but I haven’t seen much follow up on the subject since. I’m inclined to think that means the fears never manifested themselves.

    I can give my experience. I could feel my heart doing something funky and decided to use the ECG feature as a way to reassure myself it wasn’t serious. That isn’t the most sound thinking but it was 2 in the morning and funky heart woke me up. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Anyway, the watch said i was in afib. So I hauled myself to to the ER and was admitted, the watch was correct. When the doctor came in she literally asked “Did you use the watch to tell that you had afib?”, Kinda sheepishly I said “Yes” and she said, “Everone I have had come in because of their watch has actually had it, I didn’t think it would work that well”.  As a follow up I had to start seeing a cardiologist and a similar thing happened with him. He said “When they announced that feature I thought it was bullshit and there is no way it would work. It totally works.”  In dealing with my off and on heart funkyness he has just relayed on the watch for monitoring and the PDFs generated by the health app. No other equipment needed. So in my limited sample the doctors seem to see on team watch with one being an admitted skeptic. Not bad. 

    The part that most people miss is that A-Fib is merely an irregularity in the heart's rhythm of beats.   A single lead EKG can detect that rhythm (or the lack of) quite easily and accurately.

    I think much of the early skepticism about the Apple Watch EKG function came from bias in the healthcare industry against "consumer grade" medical devices and a belief that "medical grade" were the only reliably accurate devices.   In medical forums I see those biases slowly fading away.  And, in the case of blood pressure monitoring actually favoring home monitoring on consumer grade devices! 

    A full, medical grade 12 lead EKG is not necessarily anymore accurate for detecting A-Fib -- but it can detect a multitude of other things that no single lead EKG (including the Apple Watch) can detect.

    In short the Apple Watch EKG provides a reliable early warning system for one type of heart problem.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,769member
    I remember when the ECG feature was first announced there was a bit of skepticism about the product actually doing what it claimed and  some concern about doctors offices being flooded with false positives and the like but I haven’t seen much follow up on the subject since. I’m inclined to think that means the fears never manifested themselves.

    I can give my experience. I could feel my heart doing something funky and decided to use the ECG feature as a way to reassure myself it wasn’t serious. That isn’t the most sound thinking but it was 2 in the morning and funky heart woke me up. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Anyway, the watch said i was in afib. So I hauled myself to to the ER and was admitted, the watch was correct. When the doctor came in she literally asked “Did you use the watch to tell that you had afib?”, Kinda sheepishly I said “Yes” and she said, “Everone I have had come in because of their watch has actually had it, I didn’t think it would work that well”.  As a follow up I had to start seeing a cardiologist and a similar thing happened with him. He said “When they announced that feature I thought it was bullshit and there is no way it would work. It totally works.”  In dealing with my off and on heart funkyness he has just relayed on the watch for monitoring and the PDFs generated by the health app. No other equipment needed. So in my limited sample the doctors seem to see on team watch with one being an admitted skeptic. Not bad. 
    Sporadic problems are the worst to figure out, no matter if it's hardware, software, or people.

    The main difference between the hardware and software in people versus computers is that that in people can, if given the chance, repair itself.

    I was shocked when I transitioned from a systems analyst to a nurse that the process of fixing problems remained essentially the same:   Collect the data, identify the problem, identify alternatives, implement a solution and then re-evaluate.

    It took me years though before I realized that the big difference was that, in many cases, the body, unlike a car or a computer can repair damaged and worn out parts.  We just need to give it the tools it needs:  namely a healthy lifestyle:  diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, etc...
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,769member
    Mike, I'm glad you're OK.  I'm also happy to hear you are thinking of improving your lifestyle.

    But, do not underestimate it:   It's hard.
    Most people don't know what it is:  "What is a healthy diet?"  "Is olive oil healthy or unhealthy?"  "What kind of exercise?"  "Is diet or exercise best for weight loss?",  "How much?"   "How often?"   "How hard?", "Do I have to diet AND exercise?"  "Can I just do one type of exercise?"

    The Apple Watch is great in many ways.   But converting to a healthy lifestyle typically requires:
    --  Education:   What is it and what does it do?
    --  Training:   How to do it
    --  Support:   To get you over the rough spots and obstacles that ALWAYS come up
    --  Maintenance:  To keep effective practices going.

    You can do this.   But don't underestimate it.   It's no less complicated than fixing a Mac that's acting up.
  • Reply 20 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,188administrator
    Mike, I'm glad you're OK.  I'm also happy to hear you are thinking of improving your lifestyle.

    But, do not underestimate it:   It's hard.
    Most people don't know what it is:  "What is a healthy diet?"  "Is olive oil healthy or unhealthy?"  "What kind of exercise?"  "Is diet or exercise best for weight loss?",  "How much?"   "How often?"   "How hard?", "Do I have to diet AND exercise?"  "Can I just do one type of exercise?"

    The Apple Watch is great in many ways.   But converting to a healthy lifestyle typically requires:
    --  Education:   What is it and what does it do?
    --  Training:   How to do it
    --  Support:   To get you over the rough spots and obstacles that ALWAYS come up
    --  Maintenance:  To keep effective practices going.

    You can do this.   But don't underestimate it.   It's no less complicated than fixing a Mac that's acting up.
    The good news is, most of this as it pertains to training, education, maintenance, and support has been underway for a decade or more, as I saw the writing on the wall relatively early.

    For me, the Apple Watch is more of a data collector than a gateway to the very start of a healthy lifestyle. I do need to be better about routinely completing the rings in equal measure, though. 
    edited June 22 GeorgeBMac
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