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Test Your Heart Health

Updated on March 13, 2011
A healthy heart is free, but you must practice good habits to keep one.
A healthy heart is free, but you must practice good habits to keep one.

Check your heart

So you exercise, you eat healthy, you even take your vitamins. You have had your checkup and their are no anomalies in your health, but you still wonder - "What kind of shape is my heart in?" You might think it takes some fancy equipment to find out, but the best test is actually one you can do yourself. All it requires is a good digital watch.

First of all, the disclaimer: Don't do this test if you are out of shape or have any health problems, especially diabetes, heart disease, or cardiovascular disease. If in doubt, have a doctor check it out before starting any exercise program.

The first thing to do is to calculate your maximum pulse rate for your age. Take 220 and subtract your age in years. For me, age 51, that is 220-51=169, so my maximum pulse rate should be 169. Now this number is a general maximum pulse rate for your age group, there are individuals that can exceed this number (I can push mine to over 180), but we want the general maximum pulse rate.

The next thing you will need to do is find a good spot on your arm or wrist to feel your pulse. For a lot of people, there is a slightly visible blue vein running on the inside of their wrist. This is the most common spot and is the first spot that most nurses will check when searching for your pulse. For me, the best spot is near my left thumb, I can actually see it move when I am sitting. For a few people, they may have to find a spot on their neck to feel their pulse.

Once you find a good spot for feeling your pulse, you can start measuring your pulse rate. A lot of people count pulse beats over a 10 second time period and then multiply by 6 to get their pulse rate. This works, but for this test, I actually prefer to use a 6 second time period and multiply by 10 to calculate my current pulse. The reason I prefer using a smaller time window is that my pulse starts to rapidly decline when I stop running.

Once you know how to measure your pulse, you can do the test. Go out and start jogging for at least 10-15 minutes to get properly warmed up for this test. The older you are, the more important it is to get warmed up. Now you want to run about 100 yards at a full sprint. I actually find it easier to run hard for about 200 yards while going into a full sprint for the last 100 yards. You should be running hard enough, so that at the end of the run, you are running out of energy. At that point, slow down and come to a stop, then quickly measure your pulse rate. Wait a full minute (measuring from when you began taking your first pulse rate) and then take your pulse rate again. Now subtract the last number from the first number. The resulting number is your pulse recovery rate. For example, if your first pulse rate is 180 and your second pulse rate is 145, then your pulse recovery rate is 35.

This number is the rate at which your heart is recovering and returning to its normal resting state. The stronger and more in shape your heart is, then the faster it can return to its resting heartbeat rate. The following numbers show your general heart health level.

POOR: less than 12 -> poor heart health, see a doctor, only do this test with supervision
FAIR: 12-20 -> you are in bad shape, get more exercise, start out slowly with walking
GOOD: 20-30 -> you are average
EXCELLENT: 30-40 -> you are in excellent shape
OUTSTANDING : Over 40 -> professional athlete quality heart

Once you start doing this, you will find that it helps motivate you to aim for a better score. Of course, the more you are motivated, the more exercise you will get, and the healthier you will get. Now that you know of this new test, try it out, have fun, and remember to never give up on your dreams.


Submit a Comment

  • Pente profile image

    Pente 6 years ago from Planet Earth

    Please ask your doctor about any precautions, especially if you are not regularly exercising. I think most cardiologists are familiar with this home version of their treadmill test. I wouldn't want to be the cause of another heart attack.

  • wilderness profile image

    Dan Harmon 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

    I will have to try this - thanks. After a heart attack, I took a treadmill test but don't remember the results well enough to recall any recovery numbers.

    Obviously, heart health is important to me, and this is one way to check it.

  • Pente profile image

    Pente 7 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hm, I know that you just need to put in maximum effort for about 30 seconds after being warmed up. If you are tired, then maybe maximum effort would only require half the distance.

  • tmbridgeland profile image

    tmbridgeland 7 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

    This is a good test, but too strenuous for older, out of shape people. I guess a lot of folks will be too tired after the warmup to do the sprint.