The new Apple Watch has a heart monitor and the FDA approves

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The new Apple Watch unveiled Wednesday has a new, real-life medical app: a heart monitor.

The watch has two electrocardiogram, or EKG, apps that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and supported by the American Heart Association. They are designed to catch irregular heart rhythms that may not necessarily show up during a medical exam but that can signal serious heart risks.

The phone also has a function that detects if the wearer has fallen down and hasn’t moved for a while, and can call for help.

The latest Apple Watch 4 can detect hard falls and, if required, initiate a call to emergency services.Courtesy Apple

Companies have been working for years to come up with wearable digital health products to tap into an aging, health-conscious and well-heeled population.

“The Apple Watch has become an intelligent guardian for your health,” Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams said at a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Many fitness trackers and smart watches have heart monitors, but their accuracy varies, and simple heart rate does not always convey much useful medical information.

The two FDA-approved Apple apps monitor for atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm irregularity that can lead to stroke. They can also detect unusually slow or unusually fast heart rates and record the data for a medical professional.

The apps will not work like an office-based EKG, which is conducted with usually a dozen electrodes scattered over the chest to detect and analyze the heart’s electrical signals.

“This will be, from what I see, a rhythm recording device,” American College of Cardiology president Dr. Michael Valentine told NBC News.

“But I would caution people who think you could determine other cardiac problems such as heart attacks from a wrist recorder.”

Nonetheless, Valentine and other heart experts said the device had the potential to gather useful information for patients and their doctors.