Researchers from the University of California San Fransisco in conjunction with the developers of the Cardiogram app have proven that using existing sensors, the Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea and hypertension with a high degree of accuracy, potentially opening up the ability for the device to be used as a long-term research tool for the conditions.
The study sponsored by the University of California surveyed 6115 participants with an Apple Watch through the Cardiogram app. A machine learning algorithm called "DeepHeart" was used to sift through the data for 70 percent of the study participants to diagnose the remaining 30 percent.
"The idea here is that by screening continuously you would identify people with hypertension who might not know they have it," said Cardiogram co-founder and study lead Johnson Hsieh told TechCrunch in an interview. "Thenm you'd guide them through the appropriate final diagnosis, which would be through a blood pressure cuff and then treatment."
Sleep apnea was detected with a 90 percent accuracy. Hypertension was diagnosed with an 82 percent accuracy.
Sleep apnea is a condition where the afflicted can stop breathing in their sleep. An estimated 22 million adults are affected in the U.S., with misdiagnoses common. About 75 million Americans are afflicted with hypertension — a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.