Smartwatches provide an easy way to keep tabs on your heart rate, get alerts on unusual cardiac activity, and even take electrocardiograms (ECGs). While you may be familiar with the fitness tracking features available on popular smartwatch models, you may not realize that these wearables include even more advanced health monitoring tools, including ways to notify emergency services during a major health event.
If your doctor has advised you to monitor your heart health or you're aiming for increased activity and health insights, it could be a great idea to invest in a new smartwatch. All smartwatches are not the same. We've found customer-loved smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and more that offer the best heart health monitoring features.
Why a smartwatch with heart monitoring is important
Keeping a close eye on your heart rate is useful for a number of reasons. It can help you track how hard you're working out, help you manage chronic conditions and possibly even let you know when something is wrong.
If you're shopping for a smartwatch for heart health monitoring, it can be hard to know where to start. There are a ton of new features that can sound a bit complicated if you're new to heart monitoring. To help, we've compiled this guide to help you understand what to look for and which smartwatch will be right for you.
Best smartwatches for heart health monitoring
These smartwatches have the features you need to monitor your heart rate, take ECGs and more.
The new Apple Watch Series 9 offers the versatility and functionality most people want from their smartwatch. It runs the WatchOS 10 operating system which comes preinstalled on the watch, along with a collection of apps.
One of the biggest improvements to Apple Watch Series 9 is the introduction of the Apple S9 SiP chip. It improves the speed, battery life and functionality of the watch. For example, it now supports a double-tap gesture that makes it easier to control the watch with just one hand. The new chip also improves how the watch gathers and analyzes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and optical heart sensor.
There are two case size options -– 41mm and 45mm –- and multiple casing color options including starlight, midnight, silver and (Product)RED. You can also choose between several different case material options (all of which are waterproof).
Why we like the Apple Watch 9:
- It runs using Apple's new S9 chip and a 4-core Neural Engine.
- You get 29% more accuracy using the watch's dictation feature and Siri.
- All of the new Apple Watches support additional gestures for controlling the watch. For example, tap your thumb and forefinger together to answer or end calls.
- The Series 9 watch now offers an up to an 18-hour battery life.
- Enjoy an always on Retina display that's twice as bright as the Watch 8 (up to 2,000 nits).
- Some Siri commands and requests are now handled on-device and don't require an Internet connection.
- The new Smart Stack feature makes accessing information faster and easier on the watch's display.
- New integrated watch faces include Snoopy, Palette and Solar Analog. There's also a new Nike watch face.
- The Live Activity feature now tracks more activities, including cycling.
- The Mindfulness app offers new features, such as state of mind logging.
- The watch can now monitor how much exposure you have each day to daylight using its ambient light sensor.
- A three-month subscription to Apple Fitness+ is included.
The newest Apple Watch is available directly from Apple (starting at $399) and at retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. You'll get the best price buying from Amazon or Walmart.
- Apple Watch Series 9 GPS (41mm), $390 (reduced from $399)
- Apple Watch Series 9 GPS (45mm), $420 (reduced from $429)
- Apple Watch Series 9 GPS + Cellular (41mm), $490 (reduced from $499)
- Apple Watch Series 9 GPS + Cellular (45mm), $520 (reduced from $529)
The Apple Watch Series 8 is a durable smartwatch that is swim-proof, dust-proof and crack-resistant with advanced heart monitoring features. It has a number of health-tracking features, including an optical heart sensor, an electrical heart sensor for ECG, a blood oxygen sensor and a new body temperature sensor.
The watch offers continuous heart rate tracking and can provide notifications when your heart rate goes above and below a set range. Users can also take an ECG reading by placing their finger on the Apple Watch crown and using the ECG app to check for irregular sinus rhythm. These readings are then saved in the Apple Health app.
The Apple Watch is equipped with an Emergency SOS feature. When enabled, the feature can detect falls and call and send your location to local emergency services. It can also be deployed by holding the side button. It also comes with a new crash detection feature, which detects where the wearer is in a severe car crash and alerts emergency services.
Why we like the Apple Watch 8:
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 offers ECG functionality when paired with a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone. You can take the ECG on your watch and then open the ECG report on your smartphone to dive into your data.
The Galaxy Watch 6 features an advanced bioactive sensor that collects more accurate data compared to prior generations. This data can be managed and tracked in the Samsung Health app. It also offers an advanced workout algorithm, heart rate monitoring and sleep-tracking technology.
The always-on heart monitoring features continually scan your heart rate and alerts you with a notification when it's detected an irregular rhythm that could be atrial fibrillation.
The Galaxy Watch 6 is available in 40mm and 44mm display sizes.
Why we like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6:
- It can scan your health data to provide personalized heart rate zones for workouts.
- It continuously monitors your heart rhythm, whereas most other smartwatches require the user to manually begin an ECG reading.
- It can connect seamlessly with Samsung smartphones.
The new Google Pixel Watch 2 offers some significant upgrades from the previous model. First off, it's constructed from tougher glass and boasts a lighter frame made from recycled aluminum.
It also offers a broader array of health and fitness tools this time around, including enhanced sensors that better monitor heart rate and blood oxygen levels. You can get high and low heart rate alerts, plus ECG tracking. The watch also now has cEDA (Continuous ElectroDermal Activity) and skin temperature sensors to round out its suite of wellness features.
These tools, previously found in Fitbit watches like the Sense 2, are used to measure stress. If a noticeable shift is detected, the watch will prompts you to record your emotions or suggest guided breathing sessions. Of course, it's good for tracking exercise, too. The Pixel Watch 2 offers automatic exercise detection and heart zone coaching to make reaching fitness goals even easier.
The watch comes in only one configuration in terms of size: the 41mm case, and a one-size-fits-all wrist strap meant to adjust to any wearer. It does, however, come in multiple colors: black, silver, and gold. You can also choose from Wi-Fi or LTE models.
The Garmin Vivoactive 4S uses Garmin's Pulse Ox technology to track your energy levels, respiration, menstrual cycle, stress, sleep, heart rate, hydration levels and more. It can stream downloaded music from Spotify and Amazon Music. When paired with your smartphone, the watch can receive notifications.
This is a great option for people who want to track just the basics. The smartwatch offers a wrist-based heart rate monitor and is also compatible with chest heart rate monitors (sold separately). You can view heart rate data on the heart rate widget.
This Garmin smartwatch features more than 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps. Want a personal trainer on your wrist? This watch can show you animated workouts via your watch screen.
"It's the fitness [features] where Garmin really shines, and it tracks damn near every bodily function you have. Steps is just the beginning. Lots of pre-programmed workouts along with heart rate and Pulse Ox monitoring. Garmin just buries the competition in the fitness arena." wrote one verified buyer on Amazon.
Available in a variety of colors.
Why we like the Garmin Vivoactive 4S:
- It includes a built-in Pulse Ox oxygen monitor, plus heart monitoring and stress-tracking features.
- It offers a wide variety of fitness features that many smartwatches don't have.
- It includes an up to a seven-day battery life.
The latest in the Charge line from Fitbit, this well-equipped activity and health tracker packs advanced technology into a slender device and features a color touchscreen. The smartphone-enabled smartwatch can help you manage stress and stay on top of heart health and sleep.
When this Fitbit device detects your heart rate above or below your personal heart rate threshold, you can receive a notification on your compatible device. Tap Open, and then tap the notification in the Fitbit app to learn more about your data and complete a survey where you log any potential factors, medications and symptoms. You can use the information you log in the survey to then track your heart health trends and share it with your healthcare provider.
"The Fitbit was a method of keeping myself accountable for my actions, movements, and goals. Did I walk today? How am I sleeping? Am I moving enough to raise my heart levels? How is my stress? Was I active this week?" shared one Amazon reviewer. The Fitbit Charge 5 does a great job of answering these questions while also telling the time."
The Fitbit Charge 5 boasts a 7-day battery life on a single charge.
Why we like the Fitbit Charge 5:
- It offers high and low heart rate notifications.
- It allows users to take ECG readings with the Fitbit ECG app.
- It can provide a daily readiness score advising whether you're ready for exercise or should focus on recovery.
Top features to look for in a smartwatch for heart monitoring
Here are some features to look for when evaluating smartwatch options for heart monitoring. These features can be useful for athletes, those with chronic health conditions or anyone that wants to track their heart metrics. None of these features or readings is a substitute for medical care or formal cardiological tests.
Heart rate monitoring
The most basic function to look for is heart rate monitoring. Almost all smartwatches and activity tracker include heart rate monitoring, but some include more advanced monitoring options like heart rate variability monitoring, stress tracking or heart rate alerts. Heart rate alerts can be adjusted based on your own normal resting and active heart rate (what is normal varies from person to person), to provide an alert if your heart is beating outside of it's normal range for a sustained period of time.
When combined with activity tracking, heart rate reading can help you assess how hard you are working during a workout and how many calories you are burning. This is one of the more popular uses of smartwatch heart monitoring.
Many people aren't aware that smartwatches can take ECGs, but the Apple Watch has had ECG functionality for several generations and both Samsung and Google have started offering the feature as well. ECG stands for electrocardiogram (also called an EKG). It is a test that measures the frequency and strength of the electrical signals generated by your heart while it is beating and contracting. The purpose of this test is to check for abnormal cardiac activity such as atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heart rhythm that occurs when the upper chambers of the heart are out of sync with the lower chambers).
This is a helpful monitoring tool for those with a history of or who are at risk for irregular sinus rhythm. However, it's worth noting that smartwatches does not check for heart attacks, so you should still always go to the ER if you experience unusual chest pain, as there are many cardiac events that will not be detected by any smartwatch. Those that get a reading of atrial fibrillation should also seek appropriate medical care, as the watch is meant as a helpful monitoring tool and not a diagnostic test or replacement for traditional hospital ECGs/EKGs.
Fall detection turns your smartwatch into a trendy, more high-tech Life Alert device. If the watch detects a fall it will give you the option to call 911 or a designated emergency contact or report that you are alright. If you don't clear the notification within a set period of time it will then automatically send an alert to emergency services or your emergency contact.
Fall detection isn't technically a heart health feature. However, if you or the person that you are shopping for need a heart monitoring smartwatch due to a cardiological condition that can lead to falls or fainting, it may help
Phone pairing and Health Tracking
You'll want a smartwatch that can either pair with your phone or provides a compatible mobile app to view data. This allows you to view reports on your heart rate, exercise activity, ECG readings, blood oxygen, stress levels and other recorded metrics. If you have an iPhone, you may prefer an Apple Watch 8 or for easy pairing. Similarly, Samsung Galaxy smartphone users may get more out of a Samsung Galaxy Watch 6.
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