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Heart health hack: Lodi man credits smart watch for saving his life, preventing heart attack

Lodi man credits smart watch for saving his life, preventing heart attack
Lodi man credits smart watch for saving his life, preventing heart attack 02:02

LODI -- A simple hack is believed to have prevented a heart attack for one Lodi man - and the odds are high that most people already have the technology to do the same in their homes or even in their hands.

Val Chaban, 66, is retired after working nearly 30 years for the Lodi Police Department. 

He has prioritized health and fitness his entire life. So for Chaban, already extremely heart health conscious, feelings of heart malfunction earlier this year came as a shock. 

He started having episodes of lightheadedness and noticing his heart was racing while doing very mundane tasks. 

He went to the doctor and did not get any answers. Ultimately, upgraded his Apple Watch to one that would allow him to keep watch of his heartrate. The app sends the data right from his watch to his iPhone in less than one minute. 

"My heartrate is 76 beats per minute," Chaban said, showing CBS13 the reading Monday evening. "So that's just telling me everything is normal."

Earlier this year, more frightening episodes left him feeling extremely grateful he was closely watching those readings. 

"It was so scary for me. I thought a heart attack was imminent," said Chaban. 

He noticed his heartrate on random occasions was spiking.

"Kind of beating out of my chest, if you will," said Chaban, showing CBS13 the bad readings on his phone app that spiked above 170 beats per minute. 

He downloaded the data and sent it right to his provider, Dr. Uday Sandhu at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group .

"For me, it was empowering because at least now I have some kind of proof," said Chaban. 

It turns out he needed a serious heart procedure, a cardiac ablation. He had the procedure in April and recovered seamlessly. He is grateful now for the doctors and the simple technology that made all the difference.

"It'll save more than my life. There are other lives it could possibly save," said Chaban. 

Dr. Sandhu is an electrophysiologist with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group and says he has seen a surge in patients bringing similar data from their smartwatches into his office. In turn, it helps him bring a quicker diagnosis. 

"The evolution of smartwatches has ushered in a new era of personalized health monitoring. Many of these devices now come equipped with an electrocardiogram (ECG) feature, allowing wearers to independently record their heart's rhythm," said the health system in a statement.  

Along with detecting an elevated heart rate, wearable monitors have the power to uncover irregular heartbeats. 

Dr. Sandhu cautions against relying only on these devices. The technology cannot do it all. 

"Be sure to keep up on regular visits with your doctor. Always mention feelings of fluttering or beat skipping — even if your smart device has not detected anything unusual," said Sandhu. 

Chaban is back to normal and back to his routine of exercising at least an hour a day. He hopes his heart scare helps someone else, reminding them to be proactive with their heart health. 

It doesn't have to be an Apple watch. There are other smart watches on the market and even Fitbits that have heart rate monitors. 

The key is to look for something that will send the data right to a smart phone, which makes tracking the heart's patterns as easy as checking social media. 

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