These 4 Garmin watches just got an important health upgrade — what you need to know

 Woman wearing Garmin Venu 3.
Woman wearing Garmin Venu 3.

With FDA approval officially cleared, Garmin has unlocked the ability to take electrocardiogram (ECG) readings on a range of current smartwatch models. The update is specific to US owners and includes the Garmin Epix Pro series, Fenix 7 Pro series, Venu 3 and 3S, as well as the Tactix 7 AMOLED.

All of these models utilize Garmin’s ELEVATE 5 optical heart rate sensor to administer the reading, which takes about 30 seconds. Once complete, the info is then fed into the watch’s built-in ECG application for analysis, before results appear on the watch face.

How to access the Garmin ECG feature

Garmin first introduced ECG functionality on the Venu 2 Plus back in January, which provides readings using slightly different hardware than its siblings. Of course, Garmin is far from the only company to offer the feature. Apple Watch users have been able to take an ECG reading going back to the Apple Watch 4. The Fitbit Sense and Sense 2 also have ECG support, as do many Samsung Galaxy Watches.

To unlock ECG access, you’ll simply need to download the latest version of the Garmin Connect app (version 4.72 or later) to your smart device, pair and select your compatible smartwatch and navigate to “Set up ECG app.” The setup takes a few minutes and mostly consists of warnings about the limitations of the readings.

What can an ECG tell me?

Garmin Venu 2 Plus back
Garmin Venu 2 Plus back

Most notably, ECG readings cannot be used to detect medical events like a heart attack, stroke or blood clots. However, the readings can be used to alert users of an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation or AFIB. This occurs when the upper and lower chambers of the heart are beating out of sync. The condition can be temporary or permanent. The latter can be deadly if it goes untreated.

The ELEVATE 5 sensor works by recording the electric signals associated with one’s heartbeat. These results are then analyzed by the app for any abnormalities. If anything suspect is spotted, users will receive a warning with more information. As well as AFIB, the feature can also keep an eye out for unusually high or low heart rates.

In addition to on-the-spot ECG readings, users can also sync and save their ECG data to the Connect app. Doing so lets you create a report that can easily be shown to healthcare professionals.

Garmin ECG availability

Ultimately, we’re big fans of brands adding functionality to devices via firmware at no cost to users. This is especially true when added features are legitimately useful, as is the case here.

Unfortunately, for those outside the US, you’ll likely have to wait until Garmin’s latest ECG tech receives approval from your respective government’s health services before it’s made available to you.

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