Close call: Malaysian's Apple Watch alerts him to a silent heart condition

Erna Mahyuni
Farhat Haniff had no idea his Apple Watch purchase would be as life-changing as it was.— Picture courtesy of Apple

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22  — Farhat Haniff bought an Apple Watch, like many people do, in an effort to get fitter.

A restaurateur and freelance architect by trade, Farhat, 30, was a regular exerciser who managed his diet and sleep with care.

It didn't faze him, then, when his Apple Watch Series 4 alerted him of an elevated heart rate while on a turbulent flight from Langkawi back to Kuala Lumpur just a few months ago in August.

“I do have this anxiety when it comes to flying, sometimes, especially during a rough flight,” he said.

He recalls vividly how his watch suddenly displayed a heart icon, and told him his heart was beating at 120bpm. It was expected so he didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary.

Then it happened again. This time, it happened when he was watching TV. And again, just before bed, a time where his heart rate shouldn't be fast at all.

A fateful visit

Just four days after that first notification, Farhat decided to go to a clinic in Cyberjaya.

He had resisted going immediately as he thought it could be a fluke; Farhat had even reset his watch but still the notifications popped up.

Farhat had even asked friends with Apple Watches if they had the same issues he did. They said no, and even told him that inaccurate notifications were hard to trigger.

Farhat's doctor ran a few tests and said all his vitals were normal and asked why he was there since everything looked fine.

“That's when I told him that my watch notified me that I had an elevated heart rate even while I was not doing anything, just sitting still.”

His doctor then agreed to run a quick ECG and that's when, Farhat said, his doctor's demeanour changed.

From being rather jovial, his doctor now had a serious expression and told Farhat the test confirmed there was something wrong and he needed to be admitted to a hospital.

“it's just weird for, you know, someone like me to be diagnosed with a heart issue,” said Farhat.

Besides the abnormal heartbeat detected by the watch, he had shown no other symptoms ― no pain, no difficulty breathing and if it wasn't for his watch he would not have known anything was wrong with his heart.

While the exact cause behind his heartbeat irregularity is still unknown, Farhan's only option is to manage his heart condition for the rest of his life.

He has since quit caffeine and keeps a close eye on his workouts to ensure he does not overexert himself.

Farhat considers the diagnosis a close call as he had recently planned to sign up for runs and had booked a spelunking trip with friends.

“I just don't know what would have happened if I just ignored everything and gone on that trip.”

All in the family

His family, who co-run the restaurant Serabei in Putrajaya with him, have also caught the fitness bug after learning of his experience.

“My dad, my aunt as well got themselves Apple Watches. I have noticed my dad especially... he moves more these days.”

As to what apps he uses, he uses the native apps on the watch for the most part such as the Breathe, Workout and Apple Music apps.

Besides those, he also uses Pillow Sleep Tracker to monitor his sleep as well as Gymatic to get further insight on his gym workouts.

Farhat's story is just one of many tales worldwide of Apple Watch users being alerted to health issues and many have written into Apple, as Farhat did to share their stories.

David Gilley from Atlanta, Georgia, also had a similar tale. His watch notified him of an unusually high heart rate despite being at rest and a doctor's visit confirmed he needed surgery.

Besides alerting users of unusual heart readings, Watch users have also written in to say how the watch's fall detection and emergency SOS have literally been lifesaving.

In Malaysia, however, the ECG monitor and AFib alerts have yet to be available. Still, it seems even without them, users such as Farhat can find much to appreciate.

Do note that the Watch is meant to complement your health endeavours and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice or dedicated medical apparatus.

Yet, it's funny how in this century we can say, with absolute truth and zero irony: “My watch (might have) saved my life.”

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