Last spring, when the country’s Covid-19 cases were rising and tests were in short supply, some scientists wondered whether a new approach to disease surveillance might be on Americans’ wrists.
one in five Americans Uses Fitbit, Apple Watch or other wearable fitness tracker. and in the past year, several studies has been suggested that equipment – which can continuously collect data on heart rate, body temperature, physical activity and more – could help detect the early signs of COVID-19 symptoms.
Now, research suggests that these wearables may also help patients recover from illness, providing insight into how its long term effects.
In a paper published on Wednesday In the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers studying Fitbit data reported that people who tested positive for COVID-19 displayed behavioral and physical changes, including a higher heart rate, that lasted for weeks or months. can. Scientists found that these symptoms lasted longer in people with covid than in people with other respiratory diseases.
“It was an interesting study, and I think it’s important,” said Dr. Robert Hirten, a gastroenterologist and wearables specialist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who was not involved in the new work. “Wearable devices offer the ability for us to be able to monitor people for long enough to see in an objective way – how exactly has the virus affected them?”
results are from Digital engagement and tracking for early control and treatment (DETECT) The test was run by scientists at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif. From March 25, 2020 to January 24, 2021, more than 37,000 people enrolled in the trial.
participants downloaded MyData helps Research agreed to share data from the app and your Fitbit, Apple Watch or other wearable device. They also used the app to report symptoms of the disease and the results of any COVID-19 tests.
In October, The same researchers told In Nature Medicine that when they combined the wearable data with self-reported symptoms, they could more accurately detect COVID-19 cases than when analyzing symptoms alone.
But the data, the researchers realized, could also help them track what happened to people after their worst periods of illness. People recovering from Kovid have told a wide range of lasting health effectsincluding fatigue, “brain fog,” shortness of breath, headache, depression, heart palpitations and chest pain. (These sluggish effects are often referred to as tall covid.)
The new study focused on a subset of 875 Fitbit-wearing participants who reported fever, cough, body aches or other symptoms of respiratory illness and were tested for COVID-19. Of them, 234 people tested positive for the disease. The rest were presumed to be other types of infection.
Participants in both groups slept more and walked less after being sick, and their resting heart rate increased. But these changes were more pronounced in people with COVID-19. “There was a huge change in resting heart rate for individuals with COVID compared to other viral infections,” said Jennifer Radin, an epidemiologist at Scripps who led the DETECT trial. “We have a lot more drastic changes in steps and sleep.”
The scientists also found that about nine days after the COVID participants first started reporting symptoms, their heart rates dropped. After this dip, which was not seen in people with other diseases, their heart rate rose again and remained so for months. It took an average of 79 days for their resting heart rate to return to normal, compared to just four days for people in the non-Covid group.
This prolonged increase in heart rate could be a sign that COVID-19 disrupts the autonomic nervous system, which controls basic bodily processes. Heart palpitations and dizziness, as reported by many people recovering from COVID, can be symptoms of this disruption.
“Many people who get COVID develop autonomic dysfunction and a type of ongoing inflammation, and this can adversely affect their body’s ability to regulate their pulse,” Dr. Radin said.
Dr Radin and his colleagues found that sleep and physical activity levels also returned to baseline more slowly in people with COVID-19 compared to other illnesses.
Researchers identified a small subgroup of people with COVID who had a heart rate of five beats per minute above normal for one to two months after infection. About 14 percent of people with the disease fall into this category, and their heart rate hasn’t returned to normal for more than 133 days, on average.
These participants were significantly more likely to report cough, shortness of breath and body aches during the acute phase of their illness, compared to other COVID patients.
One limitation of the study is that it did not ask participants to continue to report their symptoms in the weeks and months after they first fell ill. But the scientists plan to ask volunteers to do the same in future research.
“We want to do a better job of collecting symptoms over a longer period of time so that we can compare the physical changes we’re seeing with the symptoms that participants are actually experiencing,” Dr. Radin said. “So this is really a preliminary study that opens up a lot of other studies down the road.”
In February, the National Institutes of Health announced that it Provide $1.15 Billion To fund research on prolonged Covid over the next four years. The new study sheds light on the role wearables can play in that research, Dr. Hirten said: “Combining techniques like this with other studies that are being done looking at this issue of long-term symptoms can provide a really good objective insight into what is going on with people.”