If you have a Fitbit Charge 5, you may have heard that the device has the ability to take a reading of your heart’s electrical activity, known as an Electrocardiogram or ECG. That’s a very advanced feature, and one that many wearables do not have.
Many people wonder how to take an ECG reading on the Fitbit Charge 5. It’s a simple process, and a great thing to do periodically.
Here’s how to take an ECG reading on your Fitbit to check on your heart from nearly anywhere.
ECG versus heart rate
Like most Fitbit watches and other wearables, the Fitbit Charge 5 has a heart rate sensor. It’s an optical sensor, which means that it shines a small light into your skin and then detects how the light spreads. It uses that to determine an estimate of your heart rate. It’s great for determining how strenuous your workout was, or determining your resting heart rate during sleep.
An ECG is different. It tests the electrical activity of your heart, which can help to diagnose certain heart conditions and arrhythmias. Because it is used to help detect medical conditions, this feature had to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Fitbit is one of the only companies to have an FDA-cleared ECG integrated into a wearable device. Clearance means that Fitbit can be used in some cases to actually detect a medical condition. That’s very different from just tracking a person’s heart rate.
How to take an ECG reading on the Fitbit Charge 5
To take an ECG reading, swipe left on the device’s screen until you get to the ECG app. It will say ECG, and have a little icon of a red heart. Press on the screen to enter the app.
Now, follow the instructions on the screen. These may change over time, so it’s important to follow the most up-to-date instructions.
As I write this, the instructions tell you to sit still and to start the reading. They then instruct you to place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the screen of your Charge 5. The screen contains sensors on the sides, and when you put your thumb and forefinger on them, they take an electrical reading of your heart’s activity.
The instructions then say to sit still for 30 seconds while reading is taken. Talking or moving can disrupt it. Once the reading is done, your Fitbit will tell you if you had a normal sinus rhythm, if you there is evidence of an arrhythmia, or if the test was inconclusive.
If the Fitbit detected an abnormal rhythm, you should notify your doctor immediately. From within the Fitbit app on your phone, you can also generate a report on your ECG results, including a trace of the actual ECG. This is something you can send to your doctor as a PDF. Most doctors are trained on how to interpret these results. Fitbit says the readings in its report are similar to a one-wire ECG.
Warnings and Things to Keep in Mind
While the ECG on the Fitbit Charge 5 is FDA cleared, it’s important to always check with your doctor if you’re having any symptoms of a possible arrhythmia. You should never rely on a wearable device to diagnose a medical condition. If you feel unwell, always check with your doctor immediately, and don’t trust a Normal Sinus Rhythm result over what you feel in your own body.
Even if you shouldn’t let your Fitbit Charge 5’s reading take precedence over how your body feelings any any symptoms you have, there are still some solid reasons to use the ECG on your device.
Some arrhythmias can be challenging to detect in the doctor’s office. Some of them may also appear without other obvious symptoms. In particular, the Fitbit Charge 5 is designed to help detect Atrial fibrillation of AFib, which can be associated with a risk of heart attacks and strokes. That’s why periodically checking your heart using Fitbit even when you feel well is a good idea. You might discover something that you didn’t know was there, and then you can follow up with your doctor and get a full ECG or other tests.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your Fitbit will only detect arrhythmias that are happening in moment that you take the reading. If you had an arrhythmia earlier in the day and it has stopped, the watch won’t necessarily detect it. If you move or talk while taking your reading, that can make it less accurate too.
Even keeping all those things in mind, it’s still a great capability to be able to take an ECG reading on your Fitbit Charge 5. It can give you reassurance that everything is OK, or potentially reveal a hidden issue for which you can then get the proper medical care.