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Listen to What Your Body and Your Apple Watch Are Trying to Tell You

Tim Boyer's picture
Heart Rate Feature Saves Life

According to a recent CBS News report, that heart rate monitor on your Apple Watch or fitness band can be more than just a feature to tell you how hard you are pushing your heart while exercising—it could also be a way of telling you that something is wrong with your health.


For a teen athlete who made a recent Apple Watch buying decision, that same decision turned out to be a life-saving one as well. According to CBS News, when Paul Houle, 17, a senior nose tackle on Tabor Academy's football team found that something was not quite right with his body hours after football practice as he experienced chest and back pain, a quick look at his Apple Watch told him that his heart rate was abnormally high at 145 beats per minute.

After contacting his trainer about his health concerns, he was rushed to a hospital where doctors determined that he was suffering from rhabdomyolysis—a serious medical condition where damaged skeletal muscle cells are breaking down and leaking proteins into the bloodstream. One of the key proteins indicating this condition is that of myoglobin—a protein that carries oxygen to muscle cells much like hemoglobin carries oxygen around in the blood. In fact when a patient is presented at an ER due to a possible heart attack, the presence of myoglobin in the blood is tested to determine whether damage occurred to the cardiac muscle.

When myoglobin is released into the bloodstream, eventually it makes it way to the kidneys to be filtered out; however, too much of this protein can overwhelm the kidneys and result in kidney failure.

Rhabdomyolysis is not an uncommon finding in athletes who have stressed their bodies with an exceptionally hard work out. Due to the leaking of enzymes and protein into the blood from the damaged muscle cells, symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis include muscle pain and dark urine. Non-exercise related Rhabdomyolysis can occur as well as evidenced in some statin prescribed high cholesterol patients who experience muscle damage while on statins for prolonged periods.

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The take-home message to this news report is that often times when something is not right with your health, typically your body is sending signals to you that you need to pay attention to and do something about it like go see your physician or a nurse to find out if you may have a life-threatening condition developing as opposed to a normal ache and pain.

In fact, even something as seemingly innocuous as having cramps in your feet, finding a lack of hair on your toes, or hands that are unusually cold could be signs that your body is facing a medical emergency.

Here is some further reading about the usefulness of activity monitors for non-emergencies such as an aid to weight loss, and more about other warning signs from your body when it is trying to tell you something is wrong with your health.

Reference: CBS News Sept. 21, 2015 “Apple Watch helps save teen athlete's life