Apple Watch helps save life of Bothell man with heart issues

February is American Heart Month and KIRO 7 is looking at advances in life-saving treatment here in Western Washington.

Heart disease is the leading killer in both men and women. But new heart monitoring technology in the Apple Watch helped save a Bothell man's life.

Cardiologist Dr. Phil Massey of Pacific Medical Centers in Seattle showed KIRO 7 the advancements in preventing heart disease related deaths. That included the Apple Watch and its ability to detect atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, which is an irregular, fast heartbeat.

"It will say hold your finger on the crown which is this side," said Caitlyn, a heart nurse at Pacific Medical Centers, as she showed KIRO 7 how it works. "I was really skeptical that this would provide a clear tracing for our patients, because I read EKG's all day every day."

But she's a believer now. The new technology recently proved itself with a Bothell man who had a history of a-fib.

"He had been off of blood thinner and he didn't know it had come back," Dr. Massey said. "And when you have AF it can be intermittent so he could come into the office and be in normal rhythm. But then he could show me the tracking on his watch and show me that it had come back. And then we got him on a blood thinner to prevent a stroke, so that is a big deal."

One in four deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Doctor Massey also showed us advancements in ultrasounds that give doctors a much clearer picture of your heart to detect issues. And he discussed surgical advancements.

"When I went through my cardiology training at UW a number of years ago we had to do open heart surgery to fix the heart valve problem," he said. "But now we can implant valves where we go in through the femoral artery through the groin with a catheter. And implant an aortal valve or fix a micro-valve and that is a major new advance in the last few years."

Dr. Massey stresses preventative measures like a healthy diet and exercise. And after seeing the success of the Apple Watch heart monitoring he's excited about what's next.

"I am hopeful that other heart rhythm problems will be able to be detected in the future outside of the doctor's office," Dr. Massey said.  "And that's exciting."

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