Fitness trackers

Using fitness trackers for COVID

By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY April 20, 2022

Fitness trackers can tell you how well you sleep, how fast you walk and, of course, how many steps you have taken.

But during the pandemic, researchers have also studied the ability of smartwatches to help detect COVID-19 or provide data on recovery.

The latest study uses several measures of heart rate data to help track the progression of symptoms in someone with the coronavirus and to show how sick that person becomes when they are sick.

In the study, fitness tracker detected that COVID-19 attenuated biological timing signals, said co-author Daniel Forger, professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Researchers also found signs of changes in how a person’s heart rate responds to activity, altered resting heart rate and stress signals.

“Most people using this data think of heart rate as a single number, but heart rate is that vital sign that reflects so many different physiological processes,” Forger said. “That’s our goal as mathematicians, can we take this string of numbers, all these heartbeats, with all the noise and everything, and say something about the different physiological signals?”

While previous research aimed to understand disease through wearable heart rate data, for this effort researchers focused on breaking down the heart rate signal into parts.

The team used data from the 2019 and 2020 cohorts of the Intern Health Study, which follows doctors through their first year of residency, and the Roadmap College Student Data Set, which looked at health and well-being students in the 2020-2021 academic year. . Students in this study wore Fitbits and self-reported COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms.

This new study included 43 medical interns and 72 undergraduate and graduate students who tested positive for COVID-19. They wore their fitness trackers 50 days before symptoms and 14 days after.

The researchers found that when covid symptoms started, study participants had a stepwise increase in heart rate. This heart rate per step was significantly higher in people who coughed.

A person’s daily resting heart rate increased when or before symptoms began, possibly due to fever or increased anxiety, the researchers suggested.

At the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, individuals exhibited increased “circadian phase uncertainty,” which is the body’s inability to time daily events. This may correspond to early signs of infection, the study authors said.

In addition to affecting heart rate, the body’s circadian clock regulates sleep-wake patterns, temperature and more.

“There’s actually some interesting animal work that shows that circadian rhythms blunt at the time of infection,” Forger said. “So it makes physiological sense. In your body you have these big daily variations, but if you are sick your body may not want you to have such big variations. He might just want to turn that timing off.”

The work establishes algorithms that can be used to understand how a disease affects heart rate physiology, according to the study.

Algorithms are good enough now to really be able to paint a broader picture of health, Forger said, which can help healthcare professionals triage patients and make more informed decisions.

“I think now that we have a better understanding of these parameter changes over time, it really paves the way for future real-time detection of disease,” said lead author Caleb Mayer, a PhD student in mathematics. at the University of Michigan. . “We’re not there yet, but I think breaking down the heart rate signal into all these different systems is really a necessary step towards that goal.”

These wearable devices are so common now, and the number of people using them will only increase in the coming years, said Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of the Atlantic Health System Sports Cardiology at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. and past chairman of the American Board of Sports and Exercise Cardiology of the College of Cardiology.

Martinez, who was not involved in this study, said he often sees patients who provide him with a wealth of data from their trackers.

“I think first of all it’s really important that people continue to take charge of their own health care,” he said.

Martinez added some caveats to relying on this information. On the one hand, the medical community will have to determine what data might be useful.

He said he could see the value in being able to monitor someone’s health information and also collect data for those who might not be able to easily go to the doctor in person.

“I also like the ability to be able to follow people in their usual surroundings, which allows me to get a better sense of that. And it also allows for a real, more approachable view of what’s going on for patients,” Martinez said.

The limitations of the study were that it did not take into account influenza-like illnesses and did not take into account other factors such as age, weight, gender or that the data was taken at a time when transmission of influenza or other diseases was also high.

The results were published on April 19 in Medicine Reports Unit.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19[feminine].

SOURCES: Daniel Forger, PhD, professor, department of mathematics and research professor, department of computational medicine and bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Caleb Mayer, PhD Student, Department of Mathematics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Matthew Martinez, MD, past president of the American College of Cardiology Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council, and director, Atlantic Health System Sports Cardiology, Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, NJ; Medicine Reports UnitApril 19, 2022

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