Our health and wellbeing are forgotten more often than they should be, but technology like heart rate monitors and running watches can help bridge the gap in what are often our extremely busy lives.
Smart healthcare gadgets and services can improve our heart health by monitoring vital signs and alerting us to any unusual rhythms and behaviors for further investigation. Some can help us learn about -- and potentially improve -- our sleeping patterns; while some of the best fitness trackers will help monitor our running metrics, training sessions, and activity, and portable, smart electronics provide testing kits for everything from gluten to blood pressure readings.
There are technology vendors out there who have developed home wearables and medical devices that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared or approved. Other solutions might not have the US regulator's seal of approval or suit a specific medical purpose, but can still be invaluable in monitoring your health.
Smartwatches, cuffs. necklaces, and other devices small enough to be thrown into your bag that also perform as medical devices are all now common and widely available. They can be stylish, too, and can suit a range of budgets.
Top heart rate monitors
Below, we have showcased some of our favorite heart rate tracking monitors for 2022.
AliveCor's portable EKG monitor is the best overall heart rate monitor with healthy hearts in mind. You press your thumbs onto a Kardia reader and 30 seconds later, the results of your heart's rhythm and rate are analyzed and displayed on an app.
The developer says the device may be useful in detecting atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, and tachycardia, and results can be stored to send to medical professionals if users choose to do so. However, this device is not recommended for those with pacemakers.
- Portable size
- Email your EKGs to your doctor
- Cannot use if you have a pacemaker
- Subscription required for advanced features
ZDNet's Jason Perlow has previously documented how his Apple Watch saved his life by detecting the early stages of arrhythmia, resulting in a speedy diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, and this success story should be kept in mind when considering a smartwatch you want to perform as a health monitor, too.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest flagship model in the product range and while the device can be connected to your phone for a variety of tasks -- such as receiving notifications, listening to music, paying for goods, and sending messages -- the watch also comes with a blood oxygen reader, fitness app compatibility, activity monitor, and many other health-related features. The watch can take an EKG measurement via your fingertip in 30 seconds, and has a sensor that functions as an electrocardiogram (ECG).
The 'always on' Retina display size is larger than predecessor models, which could help those with visual impairments.
- Doubles as one of the best smartwatches
- Comes with tons of health sensors and monitors
- Only works with iPhones
The Fitbit Versa 2 is an alternative to more expensive water-resistant smartwatches and is focused specifically on fitness and health metrics. The wearable device comes with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built-in and is able to track heart rate zones, sleeping patterns, and activity levels whether you are simply walking, playing sports, or swimming, and the model is also compatible with the Spotify music streaming service.
Users can expect long battery life of at least six days.
If you want the latest in the line, FitBit's Versa 3 is also available, but as a budget-friendly heart rate sensor, the Versa 2 is still a perfectly good product.
- Fairly inexpensive compared to competitors
- Great product to monitor your all-around fitness
- Great for swimmers, runners, cyclists, or even triathletes
- Monthly FitBit Premium membership fee
Top blood pressure monitors
Below, we have showcased some of our favorite blood pressure monitors for 2022.
A gadget offered by Withings that could be valued by the health-conscious is the BPM Connect, a wraparound blood pressure monitor that has value for those who are constantly on the move. The product can be thrown in a bag with your earbuds and taken out at leisure. It can take your accurate readings for display on an accompanying mobile app on Android or iOS.
The BPM Connect has been cleared by the FDA and provided color-coded blood pressure readings. A sharing feature is included on iOS to share reports with your doctor.
- Get feedback based on the American Heart Association recommendations
- Sharing feature only compatible with iOS
- Must need Wi-Fi to work
The Omron blood pressure monitor is a home system for reading blood pressure without having to visit the doctor.
If you, or someone you know, needs to keep an eye on blood pressure, this could be a valuable device to own. The monitor is able to store up to 14 readings at a time per user, and an accompanying app can be used to access and check results.
The device will tell users if it detects irregularities so they can go to their doctor. AA batteries are required.
- Budget-friendly option
- Easy to use
- Needs to replace batteries often
- Make sure the arm band fits properly or you can get inaccurate readings
Top health tech gadgets
Below, we have showcased some of our favorite health tech gadgets for 2022.
The stylish Leaf Urban wearable, offered by Bellabeat in gold, rose gold or silver, is a wellness tracker that can be worn as a necklace, bracelet, or clip.
You can clip the main tracker onto the wraparound bracelet or wear it separately, and so the wearable doubles up as both a basic tracker and fashion accessory. The tracker itself can be used to monitor activity levels and sleep, among other functions.
The Leaf Urban is battery-operated and pairs with an accompanying app via Bluetooth connectivity.
- Super stylish design
- Tracks activity, sleep, stress, meditation, and reproductive health
- Not compatible with Android
- Non-rechargeable battery
In the world of wearables, most 'casual' monitors are contained within a sports watch, band, or piece of jewelry and they generate accurate heart rate data by measuring blood flows with LED lights, or alternatively, electrical activity.
More advanced devices require tapes across the chest, embedded with sensors that can more accurately read a heart and its rhythm. As in the case of ZDNet's Jason Perlow, for example, irregular heart rhythms picked up by his Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2 were then explored further through a chest ePatch.
This depends on how often you want to measure your bodily signs, and whether you are looking for a tracker purely for running dynamics and exercise metrics or a more rounded -- and multi-functional -- device.
If you just want to check your resting/active heart rate and steps, a dedicated tracker is enough. However, if you want a product that measures your health as a side function, a smartwatch might be the better option, albeit potentially a more expensive investment.
While you should monitor your blood pressure to watch for signs of hypertension, doing so too frequently can actually exacerbate the problem by causing anxiety and raising your blood pressure.
Home blood pressure monitors can be easy to use and inexpensive. According to Harvard Medical School, people watching their pressure at home should ask their doctor for their recommendations on frequency -- whether this is once a week or once a month -- and note that the best time to perform a check is early in the morning.
The right product for you depends entirely on your circumstances, age, and if you have any existing medical conditions. You should choose a product based on what you are most concerned about or what you would like to understand -- whether this is keeping an eye on your heart rate readings or learning more about your sleeping patterns.
While deciding, you should keep in mind that no technology product can replace a competent doctor's expertise or understanding of your health, and although health-based devices can be a valuable source of insight, they should only be considered an accompaniment to professional care.
How to wear
What does it detect?
AliveCor Portable EKG
Place thumbs on a reader
Heart rhythm, heart rate—used to detect atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, and tachycardia
Apple Watch Series 7
EKG, blood oxygen, irregular heart rhythms
Fitbit Versa 2
Heart rate, daily steps, sleep, calories burned
Withings BPM Connect
Heart rate and blood pressure
Omron Series 3
Blood pressure and irregular heart rate
Bellabeat Leaf Urban
Wrist, necklace, or clip-on
Activity, sleep, stress, meditation, and reproductive health
Our selection of heart rate monitors, medical products, and general wellness products has included wearables and devices that you can use on occasion at home to monitor your heart rate, activity levels, and sleep patterns. Health and wellbeing encompass everything from food choices to stress levels and pre-existing issues and so we've attempted to cover a number of bases.
Here are a few other options to look into: