Smartphones and Powerlines - Can They Cause a Glitch with Pacemakers? Maybe!

Read Time: 2:39
Published: Jun 18th, 2021
Smartphones, Powerlines, and Pacemakers

You, or a loved one, maybe one of the three million people worldwide with a pacemaker. Most people with a pacemaker are aged 60 or older, although some younger people, including children, require the device. 

Pacemakers are used to treat a slow beating heart, a condition called "bradycardia." According to the American Heart Association, a person's heart usually beats about 50 to 70 times each minute. The heart rate may increase 2- to 3-fold during stress or exercise. However, if a person's heart beats too slowly, the brain and body do not get enough blood flow, and various symptoms may result.

Slow Heartbeat Can be Fatal

Since extreme slowing or the complete stopping of the heartbeat can be fatal, a pacemaker is used to maintain that heart rate. Protecting the pacemaker becomes essential. With so much technology that generates radio and electrical frequency, can this interfere in the operation of a pacemaker and thus threaten a person's life? The answer is, maybe.

Ten years ago, available research at the time indicated this radio and electrical interference could be dangerous. That's why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended keeping mobile devices — and the radiofrequency energy they emit — at least 6 inches away from cardiac devices.

Now with advances in technology, should we still be worried. The answer is maybe. A European research study with more than 300 people participated to see if there would be a problem with their pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). 

Research Indicates Most People are Safe

Three common smartphones were used in the test (HTC One XL, Nokia Lumia, and Samsung Galaxy 3). Researchers placed the phone directly over the spot where a cardiac device had been implanted to see what would happen. 

What happened? Almost nothing. Only one person was affected by smartphone use. 

"Even in worst-case-scenario testing of phones and other mobile devices, there is little to worry about," says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Bruce Wilkoff, MD (he was not involved in the study).

It is doubtful that symptoms will occur with normal use, according to Wilkoff. However, to be safe, Dr. Wilkoff does recommend one precaution.

"Don't put a phone in a shirt or jacket pocket on the same side as your pacemaker or ICD," he says. "This will eliminate all risk." Some doctors also recommend holding phones to the ear furthest from the cardiac device.

Don't Stand Under Powerlines for Long Periods

What about high-voltage power lines and substations? Could they potentially trigger the same problems for pacemakers and ICDs? The answer is yes, but it's unlikely, according to a second European study.

Forty cardiac devices were tested by researchers and were exposed to a range of voltages. There was no concern as long as the cardiac devices were programmed correctly.

"Walking, running, biking, or otherwise crossing under power lines is safe," says Dr. Wilkoff. 

"Staying under them for too long may be an unnecessary risk, however," he explained.

Magnets in devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbits are another mild threat to those with pacemakers. But Dr. Wilkoff says that for most people with pacemakers or ICDs, the risk of any environmental interference is minimal.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

Editor's Note

If you listen to people over age 40, you will overhear them start talking about their health and changes in their bodies. It is a natural occurrence that with age, we experience these changes. 

Changes in your health, body, and mind will lead to a higher risk of needing help with daily living activities or even supervision due to memory loss. 

Families are not prepared for the role of being a caregiver, nor are they trained to be caregivers. You probably know that long-term health care services are expensive and not covered by traditional health insurance, including Medicareand supplements.

The solution for many American families is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. There are more available options than ever before, and they fit all budgets. However, experts suggest obtaining coverage sooner than later, ideally in your 40s or 50s, before experiencing substantial changes in your health and mobility. 

Available Resources on LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS offers many tools and resources so you can learn about the types of care available, the costs of care today and in the future, insurance, and other planning options, and more.

Start by reading The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will show you current and future costs for long-term health care, how to find care providers, state rules and tax incentives, and more. 

Find all the resources by clicking here

Need Help Finding Care for a Loved One? 

LTC NEWS can help you find quality care for your family member. If they own a Long-Term Care policy, we can arrange for free and no-obligation claims management, making the process easy on everyone. 

Click here to learn more.

Reverse Mortgages Might Be an Option

Today's reverse mortgages can provide you with tax-free funds to pay for an LTC Insurance policy, provide income, or even pay for care. If you are age 62 or older, learn more by clicking here.

Advertising and Marketing Opportunities on LTC NEWS

If you own a business or provide a service, you want to drive traffic to your website and find the right people to help. You want to improve your SEO. LTC NEWS can be an effective way to help you.

There are many marketing opportunities available, including sponsored content articles. Sponsored content offers you a long-form way to sell yourself, your company, and your ideas.

Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help you market your business, drive traffic, and improve SEO - click here.

Share News with LTC NEWS

Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email -  newsroom@ltcnews.com 

Become a Guest Contributor for LTC NEWS

You can write for LTC NEWS. Gain exposure for yourself, drive traffic to your website or blog, and improve your SEO. 

Numerous topics fit the LTC NEWS audience. You can even promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. However, it must have editorial content exclusive for LTC NEWS and cannot be just an advertisement. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once published on your website or social media.

Email your story idea or article: newsroom@ltcnews.com or click here

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell
Linda Maxwell

Contributor Since
December 11th, 2017

Former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

Work With a Long-Term Care Specialist
Work With a Trusted Long-Term Care Insurance Specialist
  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • A Strong understanding in underwriting, policy design, and claims experience.
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies.
Find a Trusted Specialist
Table of Contents
Connect With a Long-Term Care Specialist

Find Affordable Insurance and the Right Coverage.

LTC News Trusted & Verified
Learn More
Search Results