3 ways to test your heart health at home

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Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Cutting across most gender and racial lines, someone dies from a heart condition roughly every 34 seconds, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s crucial that you get an annual checkup so doctors can spot potential issues before they become life-threatening conditions. But you can also perform these simple at-home tests as often as you’d like.

Here are three ways you can check your heart health from the comfort of home.

Stairs test

A study by the European Society of Cardiology found being able to climb four flights of stairs in less than a minute indicates good heart health.

“The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health,” said study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña, Spain. “If it takes you more than one-and-a-half minutes to ascend four flights of stairs, your health is suboptimal, and it would be a good idea to consult a doctor.”

This study was conducted to examine the relationship between a daily activity — such as climbing stairs — and the results obtained from exercise testing in a laboratory.

“The idea was to find a simple and inexpensive method of assessing heart health,” Peteiro said. “This can help physicians triage patients for more extensive examinations.”

Your house likely doesn’t have four flights of stairs in it, so you’ll have to find an office or other building in which to conduct this test.

Buy a blood pressure cuff

With a blood pressure cuff or pulse monitor, you can more accurately check your heart rate to see if you’re in good shape for your age, gender and weight group.

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. The ideal resting heart rate for adults is 60 to 100 bpm. Very fit individuals, such as athletes, may have resting heart rates below 60 bpm.

A cuff will also measure your blood pressure. If your BP is consistently 130/80 or higher, you have hypertension, or high blood pressure.

According to WebMD, years of high blood pressure can stiffen and narrow your artery walls, which blocks the blood flow to your heart. It can lead to heart disease or heart attack.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise can improve circulation and help to reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.

“Although not as specific as the stairs test, aerobic exercises can be a great general indicator of your heart health,” according to Generation Iron. “For example, if you find yourself unexpectedly out of breath during light aerobic exercise, you may have an underlying heart condition. This is also true if you feel extremely tired out by a light amount of aerobic exercise — there may not be enough oxygen in your blood traveling to your muscles.”

When to see a doctor

If you’re unable to pass any of the above tests, you should contact your physician for more accurate and in-depth testing.

Although a low resting heart rate is usually a sign of a healthy heart, it could also be a sign of an underlying problem, according to healthline.

“If your heart rate is lower than 60 bpm and you’re experiencing chest pain, call 911. If you’re experiencing dizziness, weakness, fainting, or other concerning symptoms, call a doctor,” the website explained.

Conversely, it’s normal to have an elevated heart rate when you’re exercising, stressed, anxious, sick or you have consumed caffeine.

It’s not normal, however, to have a heart rate more than 100 bpm when you’re resting, especially if you’re also experiencing dizziness, weakness, headache, palpitations, sudden anxiety or chest pain.

If you’re having these symptoms, call a doctor.