Fitbit starts study into possible cuff-free blood pressure monitoring

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Wearables like smartwatches and fitness bands have become more than just devices to track your notifications and your fitness activities. Over the years they have become health trackers as well as some of them can now track your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep quality, and even ECG. There are still a few more things that are theoretically possible to be tracked on wearables but they need to be studied more. Fitbit Labs is now looking at a way to measure blood pressure without the usual cuffs.

High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the largest silent killers and one way to detect it is through regular blood pressure monitoring. But not everyone has a device in their house and even then, the devices have cuffs which can be inconvenient at times. There has been some interest in creating cuff-less devices but there hasn’t been any movement in that area. Now Fitbit Labs is looking into an indirect way of measuring through Pulse Arrival Time or PAT.

Fitbit is inviting users of the Sense smartwatch to participate in a study to possibly establish PAT as a method for measuring blood pressure. Basically what it does is to measure the time it takes for the pulse of blood to travel from the heart to the wrist and that is linked to blood pressure. So just like a lot of the metrics that can be measured, it’s merely a diagnostic tool and not an exact measurement. The study will last for one month and should make blood pressure monitoring more accessible.

It isn’t the first time that blood pressure measurement may become part of a wearable’s features. Samsung’s Galaxy smartwatches have this feature but it still needs to be calibrated with the cuff-based blood pressure monitoring device. We don’t know yet how Fitbit plans to make this a part of their wearable as the study still has to start. But if they will be able to do it with just the fitness band or smartwatch and have a high accuracy, then this will be a great advancement in wearables.

The study is open to Fitbit Sense users in the U.S and they must be at least 20 years old. They will receive a notification if they are eligible for the study since they are looking at diverse participants across demographics.

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