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'Stairs Test' Quickly Measures Your Heart Health

FRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- If you can climb four flights of stairs in less than a minute, your heart's likely in good shape, a new study says.

Researchers set out to find a simple and inexpensive way to assess hearth health that can help doctors identify who requires more extensive testing, explained Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña in Spain.

Trying to dash up the stairs could reveal how healthy your heart is, they concluded.

The study included 165 patients referred for exercise testing because they had known or suspected coronary artery disease. Symptoms included chest pain or shortness of breath during exertion.

The patients walked or ran on a treadmill, gradually increasing their pace, and kept going until they were exhausted. Their exercise capacity was measured as metabolic equivalents (METs).

After resting for 15 to 20 minutes, the patients were timed as they climbed four flights of stairs (60 stairs) at a fast pace (but not running) without stopping.

The researchers then compared patients' METs during treadmill testing and the time it took them to climb the stairs. Those who climbed the stairs in less than 40–45 seconds achieved more than 9–10 METs on the treadmill test.

Previous research has shown that 10 METs during an exercise test is associated with a low death rate (1% or less per year, or 10% in 10 years).

Patients who took 1.5 minutes or longer to climb the stairs achieved less than 8 METs on the treadmill test, which translates to a death rate of 2–4% per year, or 30% in 10 years.

The researchers also assessed heart function during the treadmill test and compared those results to the patients' stair climb times.

About 58% of the patients who took 1.5 minutes or longer to climb the stairs had abnormal heart function during the treadmill examination, compared with 32% of those who climbed the stairs in less than one minute.

The study was scheduled for presentation Friday at a virtual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

"The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health," Peteiro said in a society news release. "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."

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to a healthy heart.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Dec. 11, 2020

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