There are plenty of ways to monitor your heart at home and keep it healthy, but they are no replacement for visits with your doctor.
You can keep your heart healthy at home with some simple steps that anyone can take.
First, there’s self-monitoring of your blood pressure, which is not a substitute for a professional reading but can help you keep track, especially if you have hypertension.
It’s helpful to bring your machine with you to your doctor’s office so he can make sure the readings are accurate.
Normal blood pressure is considered less than 120 systolic (the upper number) and less than 80 diastolic (the lower number.
Prehypertension would be 120 to 139 or 80 to 89. High blood pressure would be considered 140 to 159 or 90 to 99. You should see your doctor right away if you’re concerned your blood pressure is consistently high.
Another way to take stock of your heart health is to do self heart rate, or pulse, readings. You can find your pulse any place the artery passes close to your skin, such as your wrist or neck.
Most adults have a resting heart rate of between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The fitter you are, the lower your heart rate is likely to be.
It’s an easy procedure in which you hold out one of your hands with the palm facing upward with the wrist slightly bent. Put the first finger and middle finger of your other hand on the inside of your extended wrist at the base of your thumb.
Press your skin lightly until you can feel your pulse. The figure you get is the number of times your heart is beating per minute. You should contact your doctor if you have a heart rate or 120 or above, although this could be normal for you.
A continuous irregular heartbeat could be a sign of atrial fibrillation. This often causes a faster than normal and irregular heart beat. If you’re concerned, you should see your doctor.
Two simple physical tests can also help you test your heart health. Both involve how you heart deals with vigorous exercise.
To test your maximum heart rate, check your heart rate after exercising as hard as you can for three minutes. How close does it come to 80 or 90 percent of the maximum for your age? (Calculate the maximum by subtracting your calendar age from 220: If you're 40 years old, your maximum heart rate should be about 180 beats per minute; 80 percent would be 144; 90 percent would be 162.)
Also, right at the end of the most strenuous workout you do, note your heart rate. Then stop all exercise (just this once, don't cool down), and check your heart rate two minutes later to check recovery time.
Another way to check heart heath is to measure your waist circumference. "Waist size is the new stethoscope," says Lori Mosca, MD, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. "It can predict hypertension, abnormal cholesterol and heart disease risk."
To measure your girth, wrap a tape measure around your waist at belly button level, let out an easy breath, then look. In general, your waist should be no more than half your height. Most women should make less than 35 inches their goal; most men should strive for a waist circumference of 40 inches or fewer.
There are other signs that collectively can roughly indicate heart health. "The heart, together with the arteries that feed it, is one big muscle, and when it starts to fail the symptoms can show up in many parts of the body," says cardiologist Jonathan Goldstein, MD, of Saint Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) should be one best early tip offs to heart disease. "Today, any patient who comes in with ED should be considered a cardiovascular patient until proven otherwise," says Goldstein
Other signs include snoring, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems when you sleep; sore swollen or bleeding gums; puffy or sore legs or feet; constriction or arching in the neck or shoulder; and shortness of breath.
Remember that any home tests should never be a replacement for regular checkups with your doctor, who can run a battery of tests to get the whole picture of your heart health.
But some simple home tests can help you keep track of your heart health and know when it’s time to see your doctor.
May 12, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN