How to turn on potentially life-saving Elevated Heart Rate notifications on Apple Watch

Elevated Heart Rate: Heart Rate app on Apple WatchWith its strong focus on health and fitness capabilities, your Apple Watch can push an Elevated Heart Rate notification right on your wrist when your heart rate frequency is not supposed to be on the high side—for instance, if you haven’t moved at all.

Elevated Heart Rate and your Apple Watch

The heart rate sensor on the back of the watch measures your heart rate in the background, every ten minutes or so. Optionally, you can elect to be notified if you have been relatively inactive for the past 10 minutes but Apple Watch has detected heart heart frequency above a chosen beats per minute.

These Elevated Heart Rate notifications require watchOS 4 or later. The feature is available on Apple Watch Series 1 or later, not on the original model (Series 0).

Elevated Heart Rate: Watch app on iPhone and Heart Rate app on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch operating system taps a combination of activity your watch records, then matches it to your heart rate readings to trigger these notifications.

The device’s heart rate sensor uses infrared light to measure normal heart rate readings when you’re not working out, as well as elevated heart rates. By contrast, green LED lights on the sensor are polled when measuring your heart rate during workouts and Breathe sessions, and to calculate the Walking Average and Heart Rate Variability measurements.

Elevated Heart Rate: Apple Watch heart rate sensor overview

The Apple Watch heart sensor can use infrared light or green LEDs.

Of course, getting nudged on the wrist over higher-than-usual heart rate isn’t necessary something everyone is interested in—that’s why you must toggle this feature manually from the Watch app on your iPhone.

Here’s how to get alerted to irregularly high heart rates during times of inactivity.

Enabling Elevated Heart Rate alerts in watchOS

Elevated Heart Rate notifications are off by default.

This feature can be turned on or off at any time via the companion Watch app on your paired iPhone. You can also enable Elevated Heart Rate notifications when you open the Heart Rate app on your watch for the first time, then choose Turn On from the splash screen.

1) Open the Watch app on your paired iPhone.

2) Tap the My Watch tab.

3) Choose Heart Rate from the list.

4) Tap Elevated Heart Rate.

5) Select a built-in threshold value:

  • 100 BPM
  • 110 BPM
  • 120 BPM
  • 130 BPM
  • 140 BPM
  • 150 BPM

Most people with no heart condition should select a threshold value between 100 BPM and 120 BPM, depending on their age, fitness level, whether they smoke or not, etc.

Elevated Heart Rate: iOS 11 Watch app

6) Close out the Watch app.

And that’s it, really!

You’ll receive an alert as soon as the watch detects a heart rate frequency above the selected threshold, but only if you haven’t been working out or appear to have been relatively inactive for a period of ten minutes. Apple Watch measures your heart rate throughout the day when you’re still, and periodically when you’re actively moving or working out.

Elevated Heart Rate: Watch app on iPhone

Because all this data is written back to the Health app on your iPhone, you can take a closer look at each Elevated Heart Rate incident and correlate it with other data to get a fuller picture of your overall heart condition.

To turn off these alerts, choose “Off” instead of a desired BPM value. You won’t get notified about high heart rate values when actively moving, walking, running or working out.

Interpreting Elevated Heart Rate notifications

Receiving an Elevated Heart Rate alert may not necessarily mean that you should see your doctor because a number of factors can skew these readings one way or another. According to Apple, “some anomalies may appear in the displayed data, resulting in occasional heart rate measurements that are abnormally high or low.”

Elevated Heart Rate: Watch app on iPhone

For instance, if you swing your arm with your watch for a few minutes while sitting idle, you may receive a high heart rate alert. It’s also normal for your heart rate to spike when you sleep.

If these alerts become regular occurrence and the watch sensor is operating properly, you’re wholeheartedly recommended to make an appointment with your doctor. “An elevated heart rate while inactive may indicate important changes in your health,” cautions Apple.

Elevated Heart Rate: Watch app on iPhone

Even though I’m not a doctor, I’m perfectly aware that various heart arrhythmias, sudden spikes and irregular heart beats, such as atrial fibrillation, may point to an undiagnosed heart issue.

Other heart rate features in watchOS 4

watchOS 4 released for public consumption on September 19, 2017.

Aside from more than 60 new features and improvements, the watchOS 4 software brought out several useful heart rate measuring capabilities not available in prior watchOS editions.

Our hands-on video walkthrough gives you a better feel for these features.

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Specifically, some of them include a real-time heart rate complication for your watch face and new measurements with informative graphs in the Health app for things like your current, resting and walking heart rate, plus any averages from your recently completed workouts.

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