The Health Benefits of an Apple Watch

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Beyond tracking your daily steps, the Apple Watch offers many health benefits especially valuable to older adults. Recently, a friend of mine discovered one of the medical benefits of her device by accident–quite literally. Kim was standing up while putting on her slippers (which were located on her garage step) when she lost her footing and fell on the floor.

Luckily, other than a small bruise, Kim knew she didn’t fracture any bones but she did have some difficulty getting back up. Almost immediately she felt vibration on her wrist from her Apple Watch with a display that said, “It looks like you’ve taken a hard fall.” She was given the option to tap an “Emergency SOS” or “I’m OK” response on her watch. She hit the “I’m OK” button knowing she didn’t need her watch to call 911. Kim says, “It was amazing how easy the fall detection feature was to use. I had owned my Apple Watch for a few years and was curious about this feature and if, in fact, it really did work.”


How Apple Watch Fall Detection Works


It’s important to note you must own an Apple iPhone to use an Apple Watch. You must then decide if you want a GPS or GPS + Cellular version. The GPS-only model means your iPhone must be near you at all times to use your watch to send/receive messages, receive notifications, and answer/place calls (the watch will still record steps and perform other functions.) The GPS + Cellular model allows the watch to connect directly to any cellular network and therefore, act as a standalone device. There is a price difference of about $50 to $100 between both models and your monthly wireless carrier fees with the GPS + Cellular model will run about $10. While the GPS-model has a longer battery life either version will need to be charged everyday.

Fall detection is available in Apple Watch Series 4 or later.

  • While you are wearing the device, the watch is able to detect if you have taken a hard fall.
  • It then gives you the option to either contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by tapping “I’m OK.”
  • If the Apple Watch detects the user is moving, it waits for a response and won’t automatically call emergency services.
  • When the watch detects no movement after a minute, it will make the call to emergency services automatically. You can then send a message to your emergency contacts with your location letting them know that your watch detected a hard fall and dialed emergency services.
  • An Apple Watch with GPS only will detect a fall but will be unable to call emergency services.  A watch with GPS + Cellular will work as a standalone device and latch onto any Wi-Fi network to call 911. For example, if you leave your iPhone at home and go out for a walk.


Other Health Features


  • Heart Rate Notifications: You can check your current and resting heart rate continually on the Apple Watch. In addition, it sends you alerts for unusually high or low heart rates–possible signs of a serious underlying condition. For example, the watch will send a notification if a user has been inactive for 10 minutes with a heart rate goes above 120 bpm.
  • Irregular Rhythm Notifications: An app on most models allows you to take an ECG (electrocardiogram) using an electrical heart sensor to check for atrial fibrillation (A-fib), a form of irregular rhythm. It will then send a notification to your phone. The Apple Watch cannot detect if you are having a heart attack.
  • Noise Alerts: The Apple Watch measures the ambient sound levels in your environment and notifies the user with a tap on the wrist if the sound is loud enough to affect hearing.
  • Measure Blood Oxygen Level: An app on the Apple Watch Series 6 (the newest version) allows the user to continuously monitor blood oxygen–an important indicator of how well the body is working.
  • Call 911: By pressing the right side button, under the Digital Crown, you can call 911 in any emergency. Note: your phone must be nearby.
  • Medical ID: The Apple Watch can display your complete health information, including medications, allergies, blood type, as well as emergency contacts. Anyone can access this information on the watch by pressing the side button.




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