How the Apple Watch helped this woman discover her potentially deadly thyroid disorder

Apple Watches are convenient. They not only tell time, but they also alert you to incoming phone calls, text messages, and emails, and can track your physical activity. But as one Kansas woman found out, the Apple Watch proved to be much more than just a convenience. Heather Hendershot’s Apple Watch helped her detect her thyroid disorder, which, if left untreated, could have had fatal consequences.

Hendershot told The Topeka Capital-Journal’s that she and her husband were watching television one night when her Apple Watch pinged. It alerted her that her heart rate was higher than normal — about 120 beats per minute. A normal heart rate for adults should fall between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

The watch continued to ping every 10 minutes and by the end of the night, Hendershot’s heart rate had reached 160 beats per minute. She headed to an urgent care clinic the next day. The clinic later sent her to Topeka’s Stormont Vail Health’s emergency room.

While there, Hendershot received a blood test and tested positive for moderate to severe hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.

Rapid heart rate is a major symptom of hyperthyroidism and is often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, and nervous tremors. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can be fatal. false

Hendershot experienced none of the above symptoms, and only knew something was up thanks to her Apple Watch.

The mother of two was treated by Alan Wynne, an Endocrinologist at the Cotton O’Neil Diabetes and Endocrinology center at Stormont Vail. Wynne told,

"My reaction was to smile at her and pause. I asked her twice at first and a third time later, 'Wait a minute, you didn’t feel anything?' I’ve been doing this 25 years and it’s the first time ever I’ve heard someone tell me they didn’t notice anything and were later diagnosed with severe hyperthyroidism."

Apple’s website explains that the Apple Watch is able to calculate heart rate with photoplethysmography technology. This means the watch uses LED lights and “light‑sensitive photodiodes” to detect blood flow, and therefore heartbeat, through the wearer’s wrist.

Today, Hendershot is more than thankful for that little piece of tech she wears on her wrist. It looks like that old saying needs an update — checking your Apple Watch each day can keep the doctor away (unless it tells you to go see a doctor)!

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