10 Smartwatch Metrics You Should Monitor for Heart Health

Key Metrics Your Smartwatch Tracks for Cardiovascular Wellness

The integration of smartwatch data into your healthcare can improve your doctor’s understanding of your health status and allow them to tailor their guidance and treatments more precisely. By monitoring and sharing these 10 health metrics with your healthcare provider, you can contribute valuable information about your daily habits and wellness that may not be as apparent during routine checkups:

  1. Resting heart rate
  2. Target heart rate
  3. Heart rate variability
  4. Blood oxygen saturation
  5. Electrocardiogram
  6. Calories burned
  7. Exercise tracking
  8. Sleep tracking
  9. Stress tracking
  10. Breathing rate
A close up view of a smart watch on a person's wrist displaying heart metrics

While not a replacement for traditional diagnostic tools, the information from smartwatches can complement clinical evaluations and facilitate a more holistic approach to preventative care and health management.

When it comes to your heart health, more information is almost always better, for both you and your doctor. At Colorado Springs Cardiology, we believe in empowering our patients to take charge of their personal heart health and encourage them to learn as much as possible about the way their heart works, including from smartwatch metrics. We also believe in serving as both providers and partners for high quality cardiovascular care. In addition to specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a broad range of cardiovascular conditions, our team of experts also offers the advanced, proven technologies, procedures, and treatment plans that help ensure the best outcomes possible.

Heart Health and Smart Technology

Over the past decade or so, smartwatches have emerged as key players in the pursuit of complete personal heart health monitoring. The earliest fitness trackers were more simplistic devices that aimed to promote physical activity by counting steps and estimating calories burned, but as technology advanced, so did the capabilities of these wearables. Today’s smartwatches have transformed into comprehensive health monitors capable of providing more information about our heart health, equipped with an array of sensors and algorithms

These sophisticated devices can track a variety of metrics that are important to cardiovascular wellness, such as heart rate and blood oxygen levels, and even generate electrocardiograms (ECGs). This volume of data helps individuals better understand their heart health and also facilitates patient-doctor conversations. With the ability to share detailed health data directly with healthcare providers, smartwatches strengthen the continuity of care, allowing for timely adjustments in treatment plans and lifestyle recommendations. The interaction between smart technology and healthcare expertise enables a more proactive and personalized approach to heart health management.

However, while smartwatches provide valuable data on everything from heart rate to sleep patterns, having too much information can be overwhelming, and it’s important to understand that smartwatches–and the metrics they measure–are supplementary tools that support but do not replace professional medical guidance from a cardiovascular specialist.

Here are the ten most important metrics to keep an eye on—and share with your doctor—so you can optimize your heart health and overall well-being.

Smartwatches are marvels of technology—minicomputers we carry everywhere on our wrists—that can measure an extensive array of health metrics. To help make sense of the data—and keep you from drowning in too much information—the following ten metrics are the ones to monitor for maintaining and understanding your heart health.

1. Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

At its core, heart rate—the number of times your heart beats per minute—is a fundamental measure of heart health and overall fitness. Monitoring your heart rate with a smartwatch can provide insights into your cardiovascular system’s efficiency and how it responds to various stressors and activities throughout the day.

For adults, a resting heart rate typically falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Athletes or those with higher fitness levels may have a lower resting heart rate, which shows more efficient heart function. Elevated resting heart rates may indicate higher stress levels, poor cardiovascular health, or other issues. Monitoring this metric can help identify potential health risks early and guide lifestyle adjustments to improve heart health.

2. Target Heart Rate

Target heart rate refers to the optimal heart rate range during exercise. Knowing your target heart rate can help you exercise safely and effectively to improve cardiovascular fitness. Depending on the intensity of the activity, the typical range is 64% to 93% of your maximum heart rate, which can be roughly estimated by subtracting your age from 220. For moderate-intensity activity, the target range is 64% to 76%, and for vigorous-intensity, the range is 77% to 93%.

For example, a 30-year-old’s target zone might be 122 to 145 bpm for moderate-intensity activity and 146 to 177 bpm for vigorous-intensity activity. A 55-year-old’s target zones might be 106-126 bpm or 127-153 bpm.

Tracking your target heart rate can help maximize the benefits of your workout without straining your heart. If you’re consistently above or below your range, adjusting your exercise intensity can keep you within your optimal heart rate zone.

3. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the variation in time intervals between heartbeats, reflecting the heart’s ability to respond to varying stress levels and environmental demands. A higher HRV—more fluctuations in the time intervals between beats—is often associated with better cardiovascular fitness and resilience to stress. A lower HRV may signal stress, fatigue, or underlying health issues. 

It’s important to note that there is no established ideal range of HRV because it can vary widely from person to person. While recent studies have developed an HRV chart as a guideline, they also stress that many other factors can influence HRV and can cause fluctuations from day to day. 

However, monitoring your HRV can provide some insight into your body’s stress response and overall well-being. Watching for times you are outside your normal range can let you know you might need to pay more attention to your mental health, sleep, or exercise.

4. Blood Oxygen Saturation (SpO2)

Blood oxygen saturation is a measure of the amount of oxygen in your blood that is circulating throughout your body. SpO2 measurements let you know that your heart and lungs are working efficiently and you’re getting enough oxygen. A healthy SpO2 level ranges from 95% to 100%, while levels below 95% may reveal potential respiratory or circulatory problems and need further investigation. Monitoring SpO2 with a smartwatch can help identify issues early and is a non-invasive way to keep tabs on your respiratory health.

5. Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)

The electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) functionality in smartwatches monitors the heart’s electrical activity. It measures the heart’s rhythm and can detect a specific type of abnormal heartbeat: atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is the most common type of arrhythmia and is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart failure. Signs of AFib require immediate medical evaluation. 

While not a substitute for clinical ECGs used for diagnosis, the feature on smartwatches to notify of irregular heart rhythms is accurate with a low rate of false positives. It provides a convenient way for individuals to stay vigilant about their heart health and monitor for potential problems.

6. Calories Burned 

Tracking your calories burned through smartwatches offers a measure of your total energy expenditure throughout the day, including during workouts and rest. Knowing the calories burned each day helps you manage your weight, understand your fitness levels, and optimize workout routines for heart health. 

Monitoring calories burned encourages a balanced approach to diet and exercise. By tracking the calories you consume as well as those you burn, you can be more successful at maintaining a healthy weight. The calories burned metric can provide insights based on activity intensity and duration so you can set and achieve realistic fitness goals and prevent heart-related problems.

7. Exercise Tracking 

Tracking exercise on smartwatches records the duration and intensity of physical activities and provides insights into how different types of exercise impact heart health. It also encourages a consistent exercise routine through goal setting and monitoring your progress.

Smartwatches allow you to monitor workouts in real time, so you can be sure of hitting your fitness targets and improving cardiovascular strength. You can tailor workouts to meet specific heart rate zones and optimize the cardiovascular benefits of daily exercise, making exercise tracking an indispensable tool for a healthy lifestyle.

8. Sleep Tracking 

Quality sleep is essential for heart health, affecting blood pressure, stress levels, and the body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate. The sleep tracking function in smartwatches analyzes sleep patterns, including duration and quality, and provides information about your overall sleep habits. Sleep tracking can help identify potential issues like insomnia or irregular sleep patterns and encourage better sleep hygiene. By monitoring this critical metric, you can improve heart health and overall well-being.

9. Stress Tracking 

Stress—particularly chronic stress—may be one of the most critical factors in cardiovascular health. Chronic psychological stress can lead to high blood pressure and raise your risk for adverse cardiovascular outcomes. 

Stress tracking in smartwatches measures physiological signs of stress, such as heart rate variability, to provide you with insights into your stress levels throughout the day. This feature encourages proactive steps towards managing stress, such as exercise, and can even guide you through mindfulness activities to manage stress and protect your heart health.

10. Breathing Rate 

Breathing rate, or the number of breaths taken per minute, is another vital sign your smartwatch can monitor. A normal breathing rate for adults ranges from 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Rates outside this range can suggest various health concerns, including anxiety, respiratory conditions, or heart problems. Monitoring this metric can help you recognize patterns that may require a consultation with your doctor or lifestyle changes.

Colorado Springs Cardiology: Integrating Smartwatch Data for Comprehensive Heart Health

Smartwatches can monitor and improve our heart health, and embracing this technology can lead to a more informed and proactive approach to your heart health and overall well-being. However, it’s important to remember that these devices should serve as tools to complement professional medical advice, not replace it.

For dedicated, whole-person care and to learn how smartwatch data can be integrated into your cardiovascular well-being, contact Colorado Springs Cardiology today. Together, let’s take a step forward in protecting the health of your heart.