With heart disease being the leading cause of death worldwide, it’s no wonder that cardiac health is at the top of the list of our health concerns. So many factors go into determining our heart health, and there are a number of ways to keep track of how healthy our hearts actually are. Of course, we know that tracking our cholesterol levels is one way, but a recent study has suggested another way that we can test our heart health right at home — a stair test.
As a result of a new study which was presented at a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology, a team of researchers has concluded that a stair test — which involves timing oneself while climbing a few flights of stairs — could help indicate good or bad heart health.
For this study, 165 people who had symptoms of coronary artery disease (for example, chest pain or shortness of breath) were recruited. For the first part of the experiment, they were instructed to run or walk on a treadmill, increasing the intensity of the exercise until they became exhausted.
During the workout, researchers took images of participants’ hearts. They also measured their exercise capacity based on “metabolic equivalents” — also called METs. According to Harvard Health, 1 MET is generally considered the cardiac work your heart does while sleeping. Other everyday activities like walking or house cleaning tend to be equivalent to 2 or 3 METs, while a more rigorous activity like climbing a flight of stairs can equate to 4 METs or more.
For the second part of the experiment, the researchers asked the participants to climb 60 stairs (or four flights) without running or stopping, and timed how fast they could do it. According to the data, those who could complete the stair test in less than 40 to 45 seconds achieved at least nine to 10 METs — a number which is associated with a low mortality rate. On the other hand, those who took more than a minute and a half to reach the top of the stairs generally achieved less than 8 METs, which has been linked with a higher mortality rate.
The researchers also compared the results of the stair test to the heart images taken during the treadmill workout. According to their findings, less than a third of participants who completed the stair test in under a minute showed signs of abnormal heart function. On the other hand, more than half of participants who took more than 90 seconds to finish the test showed to have abnormal heart function.
“The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health,” said Dr. Jesús Peteiro, study author and 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.”
So there you have it. If you want to test your heart health on your own, time yourself walking up four flights of stairs. You can choose a place that has four flights of stairs to run your test, or do it at home by timing yourself while you walk up one flight (that’s about 10 steps), pausing the timer to walk back down, and timing yourself back up again, continuing until you reach 40 steps. Depending on how long this takes you, it could be time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. And of course, as we know that diet and lifestyle factors also influence our cardiac health, try these simple, every-day tips for boosting your heart health that we’ve collected from experts and research!
Here’s to a longer, healthier life.