Check your own heart health without equipment

It is important that the heart is healthy in every sense, from yours Blood Pressure to cholesterol levels and more. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and someone in the US has a heart attack every 40 seconds.

While some heart health metrics are best left to the professionals, others can be easily checked at home. Keeping up with your heart health can help you avoid any problems or catch them early.

To be clear, we recommend getting your heart checked regularly by a professional. But in the meantime, there are ways to monitor your own heart health yourself, right in the comfort of your own home, without any special devices. All you need is a few minutes and a little math.

Here are two easy ways to measure your heart health at home without equipment. Plus, learn the most common signs and symptoms of heart problems to watch out for.

Try the stairs test

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you out of breath as you climb the stairs? A 2020 study by the European Society of Cardiology found that you can gauge your heart health by measuring how long it takes you to climb four flights of stairs.

“If it takes you more than 1½ minutes to climb four flights of stairs, your health is suboptimal and it would be a good idea to consult a doctor,” explains study author Dr. Jesus Peteiro, a cardiologist at the University Hospital of A Coruña, Spain.

The study compared the results of the stair test and more extensive medical tests of heart health, such as the treadmill test. They found some overlap — 58 percent of patients who took longer than 1½ minutes to complete the stair test had “abnormal cardiac function during treadmill examination,” according to the study. People who spend less time climbing stairs also have a higher exercise capacity, which in turn is associated with lower mortality.

Dr. Peteiro also authored a 2018 study in which over 12,000 participants climbed three flights of stairs. Those who failed to do so quickly were almost three times more likely to die from heart disease in the next five years (3.2% compared to 1.7%).

It should be noted that both studies only looked at people with symptoms of coronary artery disease. But Dr. Peteiro said that when it comes to measuring exercise capacity, the stair test should work similarly in the general population. And various types of step tests have long been used by medical professionals to assess the condition of the heart and lungs.

Check your pulse

A woman checks her pulse

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Yours Heart rhythm, also known as your heart rate, is a basic measurement of heart health, which is why your doctor or nurse often listens to it during checkups. It’s easy to measure at home without equipment and offers useful information about your heart and overall fitness.

Your heart rate naturally changes throughout the day depending on how much you exercise. At times of high stress or intense physical exertion, for example, your heart beats faster. When you are relaxed or asleep, it beats more slowly.

There are two types of heart rate you can measure at home: resting heart rate and maximum heart rate. First, we’ll look at what each one means. Then we will explain how to measure.

Heart rate at rest

Your “resting heart rate” is your resting heart rate when you’re relaxed and still. Research shows that higher resting heart rates are associated with lower physical fitness, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attack and death.

What is “low” or “normal” varies by individual. In general, the heart rate of healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, but the limits also depend on age. Here are the target resting heart rate ranges for different age groups:

Age

Target heart rate at rest

20 years

100 – 170 beats per minute (bpm)

30 years

95 – 162 beats per minute

40 years

90 – 153 beats per minute

50 years

85 – 145 beats per minute

60 years

80 – 136 beats per minute

70 years

75 – 128 beats per minute

Maximum heart rate

In addition to resting heart rate, you can also measure your heart rate during exercise. This gives you an idea of ​​how fast your heart is beating when it’s working extremely hard, and how close it is to your ‘max heart rate’ – the highest your heart rate should be. To get your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

In this case, lower is not necessarily better. During moderate-intensity exercise, you should aim to reach between 64% and 75% of your maximum heart rate, according to the CDC. And during high-intensity exercise, your heart rate should be between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate.

Your maximum heart rate is related to how much aerobic capacity your body has. Studies have found that higher aerobic capacity is associated with a lower likelihood of heart attack and death, Harvard Health reports.

How to measure your heart rate at home

There are several places on your body where you can feel your pulse. A common and easily accessible location is the radial artery or your wrist.

Simply place your index and middle finger on the inside of the opposite wrist and count the number of heartbeats you feel in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to get your heart rate in beats per minute. (Start counting down on a measure that counts as zero.)

The best time to measure your resting heart rate is in the morning when you wake up while still in bed.

To measure your heart rate during exercise, you will need to take a short break mid-exercise to measure your heart rate. You can also use a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker, if you have one (the most accurate readings come from a chest heart rate monitor).

Know the hidden signs of heart disease

Bearded man with hands on heart

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Many people with cardiovascular disease go undiagnosed until it is too late. Here are some of the most common symptoms of heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, and other cardiovascular health emergencies to watch out for, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

  • Chest pain, tightness
  • Lack of air
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or feet
  • Upper back or back pain
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat (or palpitations)
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Numbness in the legs or arms
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue or weakness during physical activity
  • Heartburn, nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The information contained 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 health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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