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Fitbit helps diagnose heart condition

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Jack Fuller had always been an active person. So, three years ago, when the company he started working for offered a wellness program through which he could receive a Fitbit, he took up their offer.

“I had never had one before,” Fuller said. Fuller is 61-year-old father of three who lives in the city of Dripping Springs, Texas, which as of 2017 had a population of 3,876 people.

Fuller purchased the Fitbit Charge 2, the latest fitness tracker that Fitbit offered in 2016, through the wellness program at Accenture, the services company that Fuller worked at.

“I liked being able to track my steps, track my sleep, and I kind of liked looking at my heart rate,” he said.

One day, Fuller noticed that something wasn't quite right.

“I was at home sitting on the couch, not really doing anything, and I could see that my heart was starting to race,” he said. Usually his Fitbit showed his heartbeat at around 70 BPM, but now it would sometimes get up to 120 BPM without him moving a muscle. “I was just thinking, this doesn’t seem right,” Fuller said.

Though he was reluctant to see the doctor, the information given to him on his wrist gave him the inertia to do so.

He then visited his primary care physicians to see what was going on. The doctor ordered that an electrocardiography, a test that records the hearts electrical signals and is commonly used to diagnose heart problems, and a stress test be administered.

Though the doctor didn’t see anything unusual, the data from the Fitbit showed him that something wasn’t quite right, so he recommended that Fuller go to a cardiologist.

The cardiologist he visited made Fuller wear a heart monitor for two weeks to see if anything was wrong. After the test was finished, the cardiologist told Fuller that he had atrial fibrillation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, atrial fibrillation is a condition affecting the heart that causes it to beat in an unusual way. They estimate that 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the United States have disease and that an estimated 130,000 die each year from it.

Fuller said he was relieved to find out what the issue was. Still, he might not have went to the doctor if it weren’t for the Fitbit.

“I probably would have let it go on for quite a while, but then looking at those rates and charts on the phone made me realize that something is not right,” he said.

After taking medication to manage the disease, his heart rate later began to beat irregularly again. He then got a procedure done in which his heart was defibrillated back into proper rhythm.

He still uses his Fitbit and hopes to use it to lose weight he’s gained back over the past years. “I’ve kind of let myself go the last few years, so I’m trying to get back into shape.”

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Fitbit 2 is a fitness tracker and not considered a smartwatch.

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