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A simple stair climbing test is a good way to measure consumers' heart health, study finds

The test is an easy way to assess patients who are at the greatest risk

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Photo (c) baona - Getty Images
Climbing stairs has been found to boost consumers’ health -- especially for those who struggle to find time to exercise. Now, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology have found that a timed stair climbing test could help measure consumers’ heart health. 

According to their study, consumers who are able to climb four flights of stairs in one minute are in good shape with their heart health. However, those who take closer to two minutes -- or longer -- are likely to be at an increased risk of greater heart struggles. 

“The stairs is an easy way to check your heart health,” said researcher Dr. Jesús Peteiro. “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.” 

Assessing heart health

The researchers assessed 165 participants who had been identified by their health care providers as having an increased risk of coronary artery disease. The participants completed two exercise tests: they first walked on the treadmill with increasing speed until they were physically exhausted. After a resting period, they were then timed climbing up four flights of stairs. 

The researchers were primarily interested in the participants’ heart function and physical capabilities while exercising. During the treadmill test, they were hooked up to a machine that produced images of their hearts. The researchers looked at the participants’ metabolic equivalents (METs), which assessed how much energy it took the body to complete physical tasks. The researchers explained that more strenuous physical activity yields greater METs, which has been linked with better health outcomes. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that participants were more likely to have poorer heart function if they took longer to complete the stair climb.The study also revealed that the two exercises were linked: when participants performed poorly on the stair-climbing exercise, they were also more likely to have worse heart function during the treadmill test. 

Beneficial exercise test

The researchers explained that those who have poor heart function during exercise are likely at an increased risk of heart disease, which makes this test all the more beneficial. In under two minutes, the researchers were able to identify participants who were the most likely to develop heart disease. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings highlight how a simple exercise test can help medical professionals get their patients the treatments that they need. 

“The idea was to find a simple and inexpensive method of assessing heart health,” Dr. Peteiro said. “This can help physicians triage patients for more extensive examinations.” 

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