How Quick You Do Stairs May Help Determine Your Heart Health

You might not need all of the monitors and trackers to ensure your heart health is on track. The free, simple test of the health of your heart could be near you. If you’re able to climb four flights of stairs in under one minute, your heart health is in good hands.

The Study

A study done in Spain states if it takes you more than 1.5 minutes to get up four flights of stairs, you should consult a doctor. The study was done with 165 heart disease symptomatic patients. The symptoms in patients were chest pain or shortness or breath during exercise. Each person ran or walked on a treadmill. They would gradually increase the intensity until they were exhausted. After each patient rested for about four minutes, they climbed four flights of stairs without stopping to rest. The participants weren’t allowed to run up the stairs either. Their time was recorded for the study. Their success was measured in METS or metabolic equivalents.

If a participant climbed in less than 40 to 45 seconds, they received 9 to 10 METs. Traditionally if you receive 10 METs, you’re in the clear for health issues. If a participant took 1.5 minutes or more to climb stairs, they achieved less than 8 METS. This is usually an anticipated death rate of about two to four percent each year.

58 percent of those in the study took more than 1.5 minutes to climb the stairs, and they had an abnormal heart function during the climbing exercise. 32 percent of those that achieved the task in less than a minute had an abnormal heart function.

The Findings

The outcome of the study means that roughly one in three of the participants climbing the stairs still had an abnormal heart function. This signals a possible sign of heart disease.

The stair-climbing study isn’t a substitute for formal evaluations in heart patients because of these findings. This is a quick, easy way to assess a person’s physical functions, but further analyzation is needed to determine heart disease.

During an EKG or sonogram, doctors often see evidence of heart issues. Even when a patient doesn’t show any symptoms, a typical stress test will pick up problems. This means blood pressure changes, heart rhythm changes, and other factors will be picked up by a stress test instead of an exercise test running stairs. The patients during the study all had symptoms of coronary artery disease.

Doctors did this study to show there can be a simple way to assess heart health if you’re looking at the basics. This will help doctors know when patients should get extensive exams. Running stairs helps accelerate the heart quickly. This means if there was a blocked artery or other heart issue, a patient would have chest pain or feel shortness of breath in the short amount of time. This is an early sign to get these patients in for further review.

Not Every Patient Can Do This Test

This preliminary test of running stairs is perfect for some patients, but has many limitations. It’s easy and can be done anywhere. It’s inexpensive and fast. The problem is that it is not a standard test. Patients will often have different speeds climbing the stairs, their timing will differ and they may have other issues holding them back medically. Limited mobility of older patients will be a factor. Each patient should be treated as an individual according to their medical issues. Not every patient is the same. This means a 90-year old patient will have different results than a 50-year old patient. The good news is that a patient doesn’t have to climb stairs to do a heart health self-assessment.

People can do everyday activities to figure out their basic heart health. They can try to walk a few blocks, carry large grocery sacks to their car, and/or do simple jumping jacks. These little things can shine light on your heart health. The ability to exercise is a huge indication of one’s heart health.

Individuals can also monitor how long it takes the rate of their heart to slow down after an intense exercise. This will show a patient how their heart is performing. They can also wear a heart monitor or athletic tracker to gather this type of data.

Climbing stairs is a great test, if you can do it. Some people have pain in their joints that will limit this type of strenuous activity. These people should be extremely cautious if they try to do descending stairs for exercise.

If your joints are in good condition, try out the stair method. Do a few flights to see how your heart is performing. If you have issues, get further examinations. It’s always important to consult a physician before starting any program or doing any strenuous activity.