Florida man credits smartwatch for detecting heart condition, saving his life

Atrial Fibrillation is common in ages 50+ but can happen to anyone, doctors say

A Central Florida man says he might not be alive if his watch had not alerted him to a heart condition.

Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is a heart condition that can happen to someone at any time and, if ignored, can lead to stroke and heart failure.

A Central Florida man says he might not be alive if his watch had not alerted him to the condition.

Jason Saucier, 44, says he works out regularly and takes care of himself. He bought a smartwatch to monitor his exercise, but he says the watch ended up saving his life.

"The very first thing I do in the morning is put my watch on and as soon as I did, it alerted me that I was in AFib," Saucier said.

Saucier said it was like any other morning, except the alert he got on his Apple watch.

"I didn't know what it was and I just ignored it," he said.

Saucier says he went to work but soon started to have symptoms that he couldn’t ignore.

“I was having trouble breathing, and I walked to the mailbox and I was very faint and I got back and I said ‘I think I need to go to the hospital,’” Saucier said.

When Saucier got to the emergency room he says his heart rate was 160 beats per minute. A regular heart rate is between 60-100 BPM, according to medical professionals.

Saucier says he was admitted immediately.

“As soon as I got in the emergency room the nurse said, ‘Sir, you’re in AFib,’ and they started getting the cardiac unit around me,” Saucier said. “It was very scary.”

Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that can be catastrophic. More than 2.7 million Americans are living with the condition, according to the American Heart Association.

“It’s exceptionally common,” Orlando Health Dr. Aurelio Duran said. “This is a public health issue. It’s not just a cardiology issue.”

Duran says after age 50, one in four people will get AFib.

“The big concern is it’s probably one of the biggest things that is associated with a stroke, which is a blood clot to the brain,” Duran said. “We can dramatically decrease that type of risk, by identifying that patient and appropriately treating them."

The first time it happened to Saucier he was stabilized and released from the hospital, but exactly one week later, it happened again.

“I was sitting on my couch and I couldn’t catch my breath,” Saucier said. “I started walking around and I noticed that my watch did say again that I was in AFib."

This time he immediately drove himself to the hospital, and again, was immediately admitted.

“The second time when I saw the AFib (alert) pop up, I didn’t take any chances,” Saucier said. “If I hadn’t done that, I may not be talking to you today."

Some people can have AFib and not have any symptoms according to Duran, which is why he says an annual physical is crucial.

There are many devices on the market that can monitor your heart rate and alert you when there are irregularities. Duran says they can be useful tools.

“Different healthcare providers are now contemplating potentially covering these types of technologies so they’re going to be integrated in the concept of wellness even more so than we see today,” he said.

Duran warns the devices don’t always get it right and sometimes they can have false readings.

There are numerous products on the market at various price points that have the electrocardiogram, or EKG, function.

“I would tell everybody that it doesn’t have to be an Apple watch, just some kind of device that monitors your heart because it saved my life,” Saucier said.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.