Climbing stairs is a simple, easy way to measure heart health.

I had a baseline heart assessment four years ago when I turned 70. My doctor thought it was a good idea to have a baseline of my heart’s health. I had an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram, a nuclear stress test, and a nuclear MRI. I passed all tests.

Recently, I had some chest muscle pains, and my cardiologist repeated the tests I had done four years earlier. He found one small area that bothered him. I had a heart catheterization, and he found a couple of blocked arteries. Through a process called angiogenesis, my heart grew new blood vessels that bypassed the arterial blockages.

Might there be an easier way to test for heart health without going to your doctor’s office?

Climb Stairs Researchers at the University Hospital A Coruna, Spain, had 165 patients with suspected coronary artery disease climb stairs. Each patient climbed four flights of stairs. 32% climbed the stairs in less than a minute, while 58% took longer than a minute and a half.

Testing Protocols Patients participating had symptoms that included chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise. Each patient walked or ran on a treadmill until exhausted. This test measured the patient’s metabolic equivalent (MET).
Twenty minutes after the treadmill test, the participants climbed four flights of stairs (60 in total) without stopping. The pace recommended was a fast climb rather than a dash or running up the stairs.

The researchers concluded that when a person can walk up four flights of stairs in less than a minute and a half, heart health is suboptimal. The results of this study are in the European Society of Cardiology publication for December 2020. The results await peer-review.

Improve Heart Health Heart health is key to having an excellent quality of life. Our hearts can repair themselves. Hearts can grow new blood vessels like what happened with me. However, any repair takes time.

Before embarking on any lifestyle change, check with your doctor. My doctor approved my plan to lose a few more pounds (probably around 15) and crank up the exercise program that I abandoned almost a year ago.

The heart is a muscle and needs exercise. Experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Get your heart rate up from sitting on the couch and watching television or stalking people on social media.

If you are overweight, lose some pounds. Likewise, if you smoke, stop. Both are easy to say but difficult with the best intentions and support groups. How important is it to you? Incremental changes work well for some. Cold turkey works for a few.

Eating involves more than picking up your fork and chowing down. Healthy eating begins before you arrive at a restaurant, fast food joint, or grocery store. When you plan to lose weight, plan the menu that promotes health. The heart needs nutrition to become healthy. Google ‘heart-healthy foods’ or ‘heart-healthy diet’ for more information.

Switch to a salad plate to control the portion size of your meals. Do not go back for seconds. Do not overstuff the salad plate. Listen to your body. Our bodies have a communication system that works well when we listen to it. Most of us eat more than we should at every meal.

Control your stress several times daily. It might be a simple smile or controlling your breathing for a couple of minutes. Exercise is a tremendous stress reducer. When in doubt, go to YouTube and search for ‘stress reduction’ videos.


Our lifestyles drove us to our current health condition. Changing a lifestyle is hard. Change is hard. Tony Robbins tells us that we change to avoid pain or induce pleasure. Our comfort zones do not allow us to seek more pleasure or avoid pain. Comfort zones mean that we are comfortable and desire no change.

Back in the ‘70s, Dr. Morris Massey had several videotapes that I loved. One was, ‘You are what you were when.’ He talked about change happening from significant emotional events (SEE). We might see a close friend or family member have a heart attack or stroke. The event affects our psyche so intensely that we make immediate changes.

The beauty of our subconscious brain is that it cannot tell real from imagined. When we visualize an event and apply emotions to the imagined result, a picture captured in our brains archived as if it was real. Over time, many of these visualizations overcome the archive of actual events. Activities such as losing weight become more manageable.

I thought I had a healthy heart. How did I end up with coronary artery disease when I ate healthy foods and exercised? Decades of not paying attention can incrementally add a plaque to arterial walls and gradually degrade the heart’s health and performance.

Nevertheless, heart health can be improved when you decide and act. Always talk to your physician before making significant changes to your lifestyle.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –



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