If You Can't Walk Up the Stairs This Fast, See a Doctor

This at-home evaluation could let you know if something is wrong with your health.

With the coronavirus pandemic reaching new heights, many of us have stopped worrying about other health issues. And with the possibility of exposure in doctor's offices, you may not want to seek medical care for other concerns unless you're absolutely sure you need to. That's one reason why at-home evaluations are more useful now than ever before, and one new study has found that checking on your physical well-being could be just a few steps away. According to this research, taking too long to walk up the stairs may mean your health is in danger and you need to see a doctor. Read on to find out how long walking up the stairs should take you, and for more reasons to seek professional help, If You're Using This OTC Medication Daily, See a Doctor.

Researchers from Spain presented a study at a Dec. 2020 scientific meeting of the European Society of Cardiology that compared the results of a stair-climbing test to exercise testing conducted in a lab. In the study, researchers concluded that the ability to climb four flights of stairs in under a minute indicates good cardiac health.

"The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health," Jesús Peteiro, MD, a cardiologist at University Hospital a Coruña and a study author, said in a statement. "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."

The researchers observed 165 participants who were symptomatic patients referred for exercise testing because of known or suspected coronary artery disease. These participants either walked or ran on a treadmill while the intensity was gradually increased until exhaustion, and then their exercise capacity was measured as metabolic equivalents (METs). After the participants rested, they walked up four flights of stairs (60 steps) at a fast pace without stopping or running, and their time was recorded. Comparing these results, those with faster walking times tended to have better METs, which meant their heart health was in better shape.

During the treadmill test, researchers also generated images of the heart to determine how it functions during exercise. "If the heart works normally during exercise, this indicates a low likelihood of coronary artery disease," the researchers noted. Through these images, researchers found that 58 percent of patients who took a minute and a half or longer to climb the stairs presented abnormal heart function, which indicates a higher likelihood of coronary artery disease. In comparison, only 32 percent of those who climbed the stairs in less than one minute showed abnormal heart function.

Peteiro noted that this at-home test may be more accurate for patients who are already exhibiting symptoms of coronary artery disease. If you have any concerns about your heart, you should monitor yourself for other heart-related symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary. Read on for more signs of heart problems you can check for, and for more symptoms you need to know, If You Have One of These Symptoms, the CDC Says Go to the Hospital Now.

Chest pain

woman with chest pain

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of coronary artery disease include chest pain or discomfort. In fact, the first sign someone even has coronary artery disease could be a heart attack, which may manifest as chest pain. And if you're worried about keeping your heart healthy, This Is the Worst Thing You're Doing to Your Heart Right Now.


woman looking sick to stomach

A heart attack may not only appear as chest pain, however. Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, told WebMD that some people have symptoms of nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain when they experience a heart attack. It's much more common for women to report this as a heart attack symptom than men, he notes. And for stomach symptoms to keep an eye on, This Is How to Tell If Your Upset Stomach Is COVID, Doctors Say.


Shot of a man standing in front of the bathroom mirror looking exhausted, holding his head

Feeling suddenly faint may not be cause for worry—but if you experience this dizzy feeling alongside chest discomfort or shortness of breath, you should contact a doctor. Vincent Bufalino, MD, an American Heart Association spokesman, told WebMD that this "could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn't able to pump the way it should." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Persistent coughing

Man coughing at home

The American Heart Association says people with heart failure may experience persistent coughing or wheezing because fluid has built up in their lungs. It's a particularly notable sign of heart failure if your coughing produces "white or pink blood-tinged mucus," they say. And for more health concerns, If You're Forgetting to Do This One Thing, See Your Doctor Immediately.

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