Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common abnormal heart rhythm. The prevalence of AF ranges from 0.1 percent of adults less than 55 years of age to 9 percent in those above 80.  In the Framingham Heart Study the risk of developing AF from age 40 to age 95 was 26 percent for men and 23 percent for women.  Atrial fibrillation may be intermittent (paroxysmal) or continuous. It may be asymptomatic or cause significant symptoms such as palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness. AF is associated with hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease, alcohol excess, and hyperthyroidism.
AF occurs when the atria of the heart (upper chambers) stop contracting normally resulting in irregular and usually rapid contractions of the ventricles (lower chambers). This may cause impaired exercise tolerance, low cardiac output, and heart failure. Also, blood clots may form in the atria, break loose, and travel to the brain resulting in a stroke. The risk of stroke increases five fold with AF.
Since AF is common and can be intermittent and asymptomatic, but still lead to stroke, the US Preventative Services Task Force considered whether screening for AF with an EKG should be performed in asymptomatic people. They balanced the benefit of treating asymptomatic AF against the risks of additional diagnostic testing and treatment. They concluded that “that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for atrial fibrillation with ECG”. 
Nevertheless, many people with a history of cardiac arrhythmias and /or palpitations would like to have rapid access to an electrocardiogram when experiencing symptoms, and send the results to their medical care provider for diagnosis and possible treatment. Such devices are now available from AliveCor and Apple.
KardiaMobile is an “FDA-cleared, clinical grade personal EKG monitor. Kardia captures a medical-grade EKG in 30 seconds anywhere, anytime.”  KardiaMobile is for a cell phone, and KardiaBand is a watch band for the Apple Watch. The interpreted EKG can be emailed to oneself or to a medical care provider.
The AliveCor FDA Indications for Use Statement 510(k)  states:
Dr. Carroll concludes: “I own one [Apple Watch] because I want it, not because I need it. That’s the same criterion you should use, too.”
1. Go AS, Hylek EM, Phillips KA, et al. Prevalence of diagnosed atrial fibrillation in adults: national implications for rhythm management and stroke prevention: the AnTicoagulation and Risk Factors in Atrial Fibrillation (ATRIA) Study. JAMA 2001; 285:2370.
3.Screening for Atrial Fibrillation With Electrocardiography US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.
US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2018;320(5):478-484.
6. Assessment of Remote Heart Rhythm Sampling Using the AliveCor Heart Monitor to Screen for Atrial Fibrillation The REHEARSE-AF Study. Halcox J, Wareham K, Cardew A, et al.
7. Assessing the accuracy of an automated atrial ﬁbrillation detection algorithm using smartphone technology: The iREAD Study
William A, Kanbour, M, Callahan T, et al. HeartRhythm2018;15:1561–1565.
Disclaimer: Since healthcare is complicated and personal, you should discuss these topics with your healthcare provider before applying this information to your own health. This website does not intend to diagnose or treat any disease or medical condition. Its only purpose is to assist people to monitor their health at home under the supervision of their healthcare provider.