How a Fitbit saved a life

Using a Fitbit didn’t just help one man stay healthy – it helped doctors save his life…

11 Apr 2016


We all know staying in shape boosts our health and helps extend our lives. You may know using a fitness tracker like a Fitbit is a great way to monitor your fitness levels and optimise your routine, but did you know there have been instances where these devices have actively saved people’s lives? 

A 42-year-old man in New Jersey arrived in hospital after suffering a seizure. When doctors examined him, they discovered he had a fast, irregular heartbeat. This required immediate medical treatment, but the condition can be caused by a number of factors that require different procedures. Using the wrong one could make matters worse and cause a stroke.

Doctors realised the man’s Fitbit Charge HR had been monitoring his heartbeat during the seizure. Using the Fitbit app on the man’s Smartphone, doctors looked at the data the fitness band had recorded.

They could clearly see his heartbeat leading up to the seizure had been between 70 to 80 beats per minute. Around the time of the seizure, this jumped to 140 to 160 beats per minute and stayed there.

The irregular heartbeat had been caused by the seizure, so doctors could use electro cardioversion safely.

This is the first time that a fitness tracker has been used by professionals to help make a medical decision, but it’s not the first time that a fitness band has helped to save lives.

An 18-year-old student from Southport in Merseyside was wearing the Fitbit Surge she received for Christmas when she noticed her heartbeat had climbed to a worryingly high 210 beats per minute. The student was taken to hospital by ambulance where doctors discovered a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Part of her heart was misfiring, causing her heartbeat to increase.

“I should not have had a heart rate as high as 210 beats per minute,” said the student. “They said my body was running a marathon without using my legs.”

“The doctors said if I hadn’t phoned for an ambulance when I did and if I wasn’t wearing a Fitbit to track my heart rate, I could have suffered a heart attack and could have died.”

Smart fitness gadgets are becoming increasingly useful to medical professionals. In addition to helping spot issues with the heart, researchers have also started using the Apple Watch to learn more about how sleep affects patients’ medical readings.

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