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Do you need a quick answer to the Fitbit Blood Pressure question? So one word: NO! None of the Fitbit devices track blood pressure which may appear weird as Fitbit praises itself for developing top-of-a-line health smartwatches.
The next question will be to know why it is still not possible to check if you suffer from high blood pressure using a Fitbit watch, why measuring blood pressure levels is so complex, and what the Alphabet-owned company has in its boxes for their future devices.
Why Does Measuring Blood Pressure Matter?
Two numbers define blood pressure: a high one called systolic blood pressure which refers to the pressure of the blood against the walls of the blood vessels when blood is expelled by the heart, and a lower one, the diastolic one, that is the steady pressure of the blood when the heart is at rest.
According to the NIH, When the systolic pressure is between 120 and 129 and the diastolic pressure is less than 80, it is considered elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is described as having a first number of 130 or higher, or the second number of 80 or higher, in any case.
Blood pressure monitoring is critical and is often one of the first health metrics checked when going to the doctor. The CDC estimates that 47% of Americans suffer from hypertension. Yes, it means one in two Americans presents high blood pressure. We do not have to tell you why. We all know that fast food, sodas, and most delicious food we like are bad for our health.
A blood pressure monitoring smartwatch is valuable because hypertension is classically referred to as the silent killer, meaning that we do not feel it. Still, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
In a study conducted in 2019, the CDC found that elevated blood pressure contributed to nearly half a million death per year. Yet, blood pressure tracking has never been so easy and can be done at home. Being able to check on your blood pressure levels with a Fitbit watch would be a game-changer. We can reasonably wonder why Fitbit flagships devices allow measuring heartbeats, Heart Rate Variability, Blood Oxygen levels, and even FDA-cleared electrocardiogram (EKG) in the case of the Fitbit Sense, and Fitbit Charge 5 still do not come with such feature.
After all, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and other smartwatches allow for blood pressure readings, so why are Fitbit and Apple behind and still do not have blood pressure monitoring capabilities.
Why Do Fitbits Not Come with A Blood Pressure Measurement Feature?
Measuring blood pressure is more complex than it seems, and the standard method involves using an inflatable cuff that will block the blood flow at a certain level of pressure. Some smartwatches come with inflatable cuffs, but they are still rare and costly.
Being able to monitor blood pressure with a Fitbit will be a game-changer. We do not doubt that. The issue is that even if the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Charge 5 have a lot to offer when it comes to health monitoring, we do not see them integrating an inflatable cuff. Such smartwatches mainly deal with fitness. Though they include a heart rate monitor, we do not expect them to detect hypertension using the same technology as a standard blood pressure monitor.
Measuring blood pressure will then require using technology compatible with their sensors. Pulse Arrival Time may be the way to go. But what is it?
How Could Pulse Arrival Time Let Fitbit Measures Blood Pressure?
In a three-week internal research, Fitbit established a correlation between Blood Pressure and Pulse Arrival Time. In a nutshell, after each heartbeat, it will take a little bit of time for the blood to reach the watch positioned on the wrist. These milliseconds of delays correspond to the PAT, which can help estimate the blood pressure.
Even if the results of this first study were not strong enough to warrant the use of the smartwatch for measuring blood pressure, they were promising, and Fitbit decided to move one step further. The company started a larger scale study which is still underway but could be a game-changer.
On its blog, Fitbit announced in April 2021 that they would conduct a more extensive study on measuring the PAT with their devices. The results are still not available, but if positive, they could lead to adding a much-needed feature to an already impressive line of health smartwatches and fitness trackers.
What Is the Future of Blood Pressure Monitoring for Fitbit?
We do not expect to see such a blood pressure monitoring feature in the next iteration of the Fitbit Sense, which should hit the market in Q4 2022.
Such developments take time, and companies such as Apple or Fitbit are always careful in offering devices and features that are carefully tested and, even in the case of the electrocardiogram, are FDA cleared.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is an excellent device for health tracking, and we hope that when the new Fitbit Charge 6 will probably be next year, blood pressure monitoring will become available.
Shelten Yuen, the Principal Scientist at Fitbit, leads this work and is entirely aware of the potential and challenges. She said that blood pressure monitoring with a Fitbit device is “…a hard scientific challenge, and a lot of work remains to be done to understand the best way to do this, but we have a history of advancing technology to make previously inaccessible health metrics available to Fitbit users from their wrist, so it’s a challenge we’re very passionate about solving.
So even though no Fitbit can still track blood pressure, it may well change in the future, and we will welcome such innovation. Time will tell what the company will come with, and we look forward to what the new Fitbit devices will bring to the heart health table.