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Does a smart watch help your health?

19 Dec, 2023
Jürgen Swinnen

Smart watch or smart watches are also called wearables. They are increasingly the norm among individuals concerned with their health. They are devices that you wear on your wrist, allowing various sensors to check you and give you all kinds of health updates via your phone, for example. But is it really good for your health or sleep? In this blog, we provide the answer.

What can a smart watch do?

What all you can do with a smartwatch depends on your budget. Some are simple pedometers, while other smartwatches include every possible feature. In general, you can track things like your heart rate, monitor physical activity and, of course, track your sleep.

We start right off with a disclaimer, because not everyone understands the information a smartwatch gives you. Therefore, it is possible to become obsessed with the results. Of course, this does not mean that you cannot use a smartwatch to improve your health.

For example, a new study from the Cardiovascular Data Science lab at Yale suggests that there is a group of people who would benefit tremendously from a smartwatch but actually do not use it, more on this later.

Can a smart watch provide better sleep

Can a smartwatch provide better sleep?

Most smartwatches can also track your sleep patterns, provided, of course, that you wear the smartwatch at night. In fact, the watch can measure when you are deep asleep, or lightly asleep. The watch can also detect if you have woken up and, of course, how long you have been sleeping.

All this data is nice to see and can obviously help with the diagnosis of poor sleep. However, you can also blind yourself to the numbers and graphs when your sleep may be fine.

Everyone has their own need for sleep. A smartwatch can tell you if you are sleeping too much or too little, but this can vary from person to person. For example, it matters a lot what age you are, your physical condition and your mental health can also play a role.

So don’t blind yourself to sleep data from a smartwatch. It can be a very useful tool to make your sleep more insightful, but make sure you remain realistic about the results and your expectations. Also, the smartwatch band has an impact on the precision of heart rate measurement. Also keep in mind that data is not always 100 percent accurate.

Why don’t unhealthy people use smart watches?

The reasons could be found in the age, education and income of people at risk of cardiovascular disease. The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 conference in Chicago.

The study was conducted by Lovedeep Dhingra and colleagues. They analyzed health information from 9,303 US adults who responded to a 2019-2020 survey. It targeted participants with cardiovascular disease or at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as those with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, smoking or obesity.

It looked at use among patients of different age groups, gender, education, income levels and various racial and ethnic groups. The analysis showed that people at risk for cardiovascular disease were less likely to use wearable devices.

Why unhealthy people don't have a smart watch

Who does use them?

An estimated 3.6 million people with cardiovascular disease and 34.4 million people at risk of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. use wearables. That amounts to only 18% of all people with cardiovascular disease and 26% of all people at risk for cardiovascular disease.

By comparison, 29% of the total U.S. adult population used wearables. Only 12% of people with cardiovascular disease older than 65 years use wearables, even though an estimated half of all people with cardiovascular disease are older than 65.

In comparison, 17% of those with cardiovascular disease aged 50 to 64 reported using wearables, and 33% of those aged 18 to 49 with diagnosed cardiovascular disease used wearables.

While 22% of all people at risk of heart disease are 65 or older, only 14% of older patients at risk of heart disease use wearables.

People with cardiovascular disease with an annual household income of $50,000 or more were four times more likely to use wearables than those with an annual household income of less than $20,000.

Higher education, such as a university degree (post-baccalaureate degree) was associated with 3.6 times higher use of wearables than people with lower levels of education.

More than 80% of those at risk for cardiovascular disease responded that they would be willing to share the health information collected by their wearable device to improve their health care.

Differences in willingness to share health data among different demographic subgroups were small (age group, gender, race and ethnicity, education level and household income).


Conclusion

“We were surprised that people with cardiovascular disease were significantly less likely to use wearables than those without cardiovascular disease, suggesting that those who are most likely to benefit from these technologies seem less likely to use them,” Dhingra said.

“We must ensure that wearables reach the people who need them most by improving equal access and promoting wearables as health devices to improve health and reduce health disparities.”

Most Frequently Asked Questions

How healthy a smartwatch is depends completely on how you use it. You can get a lot of data from it about your activities and sports. You can also improve your insights about your sleep with a smartwatch.

Wearing a smartwatch is meant to see and possibly improve your health. However, you can also be fooled by the data, or become obsessed with it. So don’t let all the numbers and graphs guide you too much.

How accurate the data is of your sleep depends on the smartwatch. Some models are better at this than others. Of course, price is also a factor here. Also, make sure your smartwatch is in good contact with your skin.