Check your heart health at home, no fancy gear required

Your heart plays a key role in your body, providing oxygen to every other organ and keeping you alive. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some in the United States have a heart attack every 40 seconds.

That is why it is so important to be heart healthy in every sense, from yours blood pressure to your cholesterol levels and more. While some It’s best to leave heart health metrics to professionals, others can be easily controlled at home. Staying up to date on your heart health can help you avoid any problems or catch them early.

To be clear, we recommend that you have your heart checked regularly by a professional. But in the meantime, there are ways to monitor your heart health yourself, from the comfort of your home, without special devices – you just need 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 do out of breath as you go up the stairs? A 2020 study by the European Society of Cardiology found that you can assess your heart health by calculating how long it takes to climb four flights of stairs.

“If it takes more than 1.5 minutes to climb four flights of stairs, your health is not optimal and it would be a good idea to see a doctor,” explains study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro, cardiologist at the University Hospital A Coruña, Spain.

The study compared the results of the stairs test and more in-depth medical tests on heart health, such as a treadmill test. They found some overlap: 58 percent of patients who took more than 1.5 minutes to complete the stairs test had “abnormal heart function during the treadmill exam,” according to the study. People who took less time to climb stairs also had greater exercise capacity, which in turn is linked to a lower mortality rate.

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

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

Check your heart rate

A woman checks her pulse

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Your heart rate, also known as the pulse, is a basic measure of heart health, which is why your doctor or nurse often listens to it during checkups. It is easy to measure at home without equipment and offers useful information about your heart and general fitness.

Your heart rate naturally changes throughout the day, depending on how much you’re exercising. During times of high stress or intense physical exertion, for example, your heart beats faster. When you are relaxed or asleep, it beats slower.

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 means. Then we will explain how to measure.

Heartbeat at rest

Your “heart rate at rest” it is your resting heartbeat, when you are relaxed and still. Research shows that higher resting heart rates are linked to lower fitness, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attack and death.

What is “low” or “normal” varies slightly depending on the individual. In general, the heart rates of healthy adults range from 60 to 100 beats per minute, but the intervals also depend on age. The following are the target resting heart rate ranges for various age groups:


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 old

75 – 128 bpm

Maximum heart rate

In addition to your 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 is working very 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 for between 64% and 75% of your maximum heart rate, according to the CDC. And during intense exercise, your maximum heart rate should be between 77% and 93%.

Your maximum heart rate has to do with your body’s aerobic capacity. Studies have found that increased aerobic capacity is associated with a lower chance of heart attack and death, Harvard Health reports.

How to measure your heart rate at home

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

Simply put your index and middle fingers inside the opposite wrist and count the number of heartbeats you feel in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to get your heart rate in beats per minute. (Start counting on a beat, which is counted as zero.)

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

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

Know the subtle signs of heart disease

A bearded man with his hands over his heart

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Many people with cardiovascular disease are not diagnosed until it is too late. Here are some of the most common symptoms of heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, and other urgent cardiovascular health problems to look out for, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

  • Chest pain, tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the hands, legs, ankles or feet
  • Pain in the upper back or back
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (or palpitations)
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Numbness in the legs or arms
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Tiredness 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 medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.

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