Oxygen levels in the blood have come into the spotlight this year as health professionals use that measure to search for and monitor. But blood oxygen or SpO2 levels have been used long before COVID-19 as an important indicator of your heart, lungs and health. Simply put, your oxygen level in the blood (or SpO2 level) is the amount of oxygen in your blood. This health value, often referred to as the fifth vital sign, is important to monitor in people with respiratory conditions, including COVID-19.
Unlike your heart rate, which you can feel if it gets too high, it is not easy to diagnose low oxygen levels in the blood yourself, also called hypoxemia. You may have shortness of breath, but you can also look and feel completely good. Although many people with COVID-19 have experienced hypoxemia, many other causes, including health conditions or environmental factors, can also cause hypoxemia.
Traditionally, to measure SpO2, you need a pulse oximeter (a device that attaches to your finger). But with the new Apple Watch Series 6, you can now monitor blood oxygen with the watch’s new blood oxygen sensor and app. Keep reading to learn more about how oxygen levels in the blood work, what they mean and why Apple includes it as a new feature in its latest watch.
What are the blood oxygen levels and how are they measured?
Blood oxygen levels can tell you how well your body can absorb and use the oxygen you breathe, which is transported to your red blood cells through your lungs. To be considered healthy, you need at least 90% oxygen saturation in the blood from a pulse oximeter, according to the Mayo Clinic.
All cells in the body need oxygen to function properly, so low oxygen levels in the blood can indicate or precede a health problem. Keep in mind that low oxygen levels do not always indicate a medical condition, and they can be reversed with proper treatment. However, if oxygen levels remain low or continue to fall, it is important to seek medical intervention. If you have hypoxemia, especially if your levels are very low, you can have serious health complications in your organs or other body tissues.
People have bought more pulse oximeters in the wake of COVID-19 since doctors found that some COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital with. This is not surprising, as one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is shortness of breath, which can affect the body’s ability to get and use enough oxygen.
Low blood oxygen levels may not tell you if you have COVID-19, but if your blood oxygen levels start to drop, you will want to seek medical attention or get tested. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is something that your healthcare provider may suggest you do at home so that they can know if your condition improves or worsens if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Many health conditions (other than COVID-19) can cause low blood oxygen levels including:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
- Fluid in the lungs
Monitoring your blood oxygen levels can help detect these medical problems or help you deal with them if you are diagnosed.
Why does the Apple Watch have a blood oxygen sensor?
Apple’s newis on time in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the popularity of pulse oximeters sky increased during the summer of 2020. At present, Apple is not making any claims about how the blood oxygen readings from the Apple Watch can affect your health, but the company is launching several studies to explore it. .
The technology giant is collaborating with the University of California, Irvine and Anthem to see how long-term blood oxygen monitoring can help patients with asthma. Apple is also working with the Ted Rogers Center for Heart Research and the Peter Munk Cardiac Center at the University Health Network to investigate how blood oxygen measurements and other health values such as the Apple Watch records can help manage heart failure.
Finally, it collaborates with the Seattle Influenza Study at the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine and the University of Washington School of Medicine to explore whether heart rate and blood oxygen measurements from the Apple Watch can give you early warning signs of respiratory conditions, e.g. such as influenza and COVID-19.
It will probably take years until we get concrete results from these studies, but Apple plants seeds but adds a blood oxygen sensor to the Apple Watch. It will ultimately help gather information from thousands of people for (hopefully) more crucial answers on how monitoring your oxygen levels in your blood can make you healthier.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.