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In 2014 I had a heart attack. It was completely unexpected and a shock, as I thought I was much too young and much too healthy for something so devastating to occur. The fear of having another attack has stayed with me. That's one reason I signed up for the Apple Heart Study.

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Sponsored by Apple and conducted in partnership with Stanford Medicine, the study uses the monitoring features built into an Apple Watch to monitor for irregular heart rhythms, a potential sign of serious heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. After signing up for the study this past February, my participation is now winding down, as it is for many other people. And hopefully the combined efforts of Apple, Stanford, and those of us who participated could help prevent heart failure for many others.

Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiac conditions can often hit you without warning, as in my case. The goal of Apple's Heart Study is to try to detect potential signs beforehand so you can take the necessary steps to help yourself. The study found no irregularities in my heart, and I've suffered no further cardiac incidents since my initial heart attack. But stories have popped up in which the Apple Watch alerted people to abnormalities in their heart rate, prompting them to get the right care and potentially saving their lives.

In response to a notice about the Apple Heart Study on your iPhone, opening the app displays a message thanking you for participating. The app tells you how many heart rhythm data contributions you've made and how many days you were in the study. My contributions totaled 140 during my 214 days in the study.

Tapping the button to Complete Survey displays the following message: "Congratulations and thank you for participating in the Apple Heart Study. You are very close to completion of your study participation. We would like to collect your responses to help measure important outcomes in the study. Please complete this survey in one sitting (approximately 5-7 minutes of your time.)"

The survey asks for your permission to be contacted for future health studies before moving onto the main questions. Have you received a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation from a healthcare provider during the study period? Are you on any blood thinning medications, aspirin, and any medications to slow your heart rate?

You're asked about any symptoms you may have experienced during the study. The survey then gauges your level of physical activity during a typical day and week. It concludes by asking if you'd be interested in continuing to use the app to monitor your pulse for irregularities.

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That last message indicates that though the initial study may be winding down, the effort to track for irregular heart rhythms will be an ongoing effort, and one that could just save your life.

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Takeaways

  1. The Apple Heart Study is winding down for early participants.
  2. The goal of the study is to detect for irregular heart rhythms as a warning sign of atrial fibrillation and other serious heart conditions.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."