How to Check Your Heart Health at Home Without Any Equipment

Your heart plays a key role in your body, delivering oxygen to every other organ and keeping you alive. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups in the US, and every 40 seconds someone in the US suffers a heart attack.

That’s why it’s so important to be heart healthy in every way, from your blood pressure to your cholesterol levels and more. while a few Heart health metrics are best left to professionals, others can easily be checked at home. By staying up to date on your heart health, you can prevent problems or catch them early.

To be clear, we recommend having your heart checked regularly by a professional. But in the meantime, there are ways to monitor your own heart health yourself, in the comfort of your own home, with no special equipment – all it takes is a few minutes and a little math.

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

Do the stair test

A person walks up a flight of stairs outside

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

“If it takes you more than 1.5 minutes to climb four flights of stairs, you are in suboptimal health and it would be a good idea to see a doctor,” said study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro, Cardiologist at the University Hospital of A Coruña, Spain.

The study compared the results of the stair test to more in-depth medical heart health tests, such as a treadmill test. They found some overlap — 58% of patients who took more than 1.5 minutes to complete the stair test had “abnormal heart functions during the treadmill exam,” according to the study. People who took less time to climb stairs also had higher physical capacity, which in turn is associated with lower mortality rates.

dr Peteiro also authored a 2018 study in which over 12,000 participants walked up three flights of stairs. Those who didn’t make it fast were nearly three times more likely to die from heart disease over the next five years (3.2% vs. 1.7%).

Remarkably, both studies only looked at people with symptoms of coronary artery disease. But dr Peteiro said 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 heart and lung fitness.

Check your heart rate

A woman checks her pulse

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Your heartbeat, also known as your heart rate, is a basic measure of heart health, which is why your doctor or nurse often looks for it during check-ups. It’s easy to measure at home without any equipment and provides useful information about your heart and overall fitness.

Your heart rate will naturally change throughout the day depending on how hard you’re exerting yourself. For example, in moments of high stress or intense physical exertion, 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, let’s go through what each means. Then we explain how to measure.

resting heart rate

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

What is “low” or “normal” varies a bit from person to person. In general, the heart rate of a healthy adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but the ranges also vary with age. Here are the resting heart rate target zones for different age groups:

Age

Target resting heart rate

20 years

100 – 170 beats per minute (bpm)

30 years

95 – 162 bpm

40 years

90 – 153 bpm

50 years

85 – 145 bpm

60 years

80 – 136 bpm

70 years

75 – 128 bpm

Maximum heart rate

In addition to your resting heart rate, you can also measure your heart rate during training. This gives you an idea of ​​how fast your heart is beating when it’s working extra hard, and how close it is to your “maximum heart rate” — the highest your heart rate should ever reach. 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 achieve between 64% and 75% of your CDC maximum heart rate. And during intense exercise, your heart rate should be between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate.

Your maximum heart rate has to do with 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, reports Harvard Health.

How to measure your heart rate at home

There are a few places on your body where you can feel your pulse. A common and easily accessible site is the radial artery, or your wrist.

Simply place your index and middle finger on the inside of your 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 at a beat counted as zero.)

It is best to measure your resting heart rate in the morning after waking up while you are still in bed.

To measure your heart rate during exercise, you need to pause briefly during exercise to measure your heart rate. You can also use a heart rate monitor fitness tracker, if you have one (the most accurate measurements come from a chest heart rate monitor).

Know the insidious signs of heart disease

A man with a beard with his hands over his heart

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

  • chest pain, tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling in your hands, legs, 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
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fatigue or weakness with 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 healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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