A big clue to your heart health is “resting” in your wrist

I want you to do something for me … and be honest about the result.

Sit quietly for a few minutes until your heart is beating nice and steadily as you relax. I’m not trying to trick you into meditating, I promise.

Now, put a finger to the veins on your wrist, and count the heartbeats. Don’t slow the count or you’ll only be fooling yourself. Use real seconds. Count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to see what your pulse per minute is.

Was it 55? Maybe 70? As high as 85 or more?

The reason I ask is that you don’t always need an expensive stress test at the doctor’s office to understand how well your heart is holding up as you age.

By keeping track of how your average resting heart rate, or resting pulse, changes over time, you may be able to spot potential difficulties with your heart and get an advanced warning that trouble is ahead.

A study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, that involved 30,000 men and women found that the people who experienced an increase in their resting heart rate during an initial 10-year period had a significantly larger risk of death from all causes and from ischemic heart disease during the 23 years of the study.

The researchers discovered that folks whose resting pulse rate during the first 10 years went from less than 70 beats per minute to more than 85 beats per minutes suffered a 90 percent increase of dying from ischemic heart disease compared to people whose measurement stayed below 70 beats a minute.

People with a resting heart rate that went from between 70 and 85 beats per minute at the beginning of the study to greater than 85 per minute had their risk grow by 80 percent.

Keep in mind – these changes in pulse aren’t just the luck of the draw. If you stay physically fit with a steady dose of aerobic exercise, your resting pulse should stay reduced. So this study is another reminder that for most of us, heart health – and longevity – is an individual responsibility.

My resting heart rate is usually around 44. That’s about where it was 30 years ago when I was a serious runner. Today, I jog just enough to reassure myself I can still do it – about 20 easy minutes a day and some interval training (sprints) on the weekend.

Exercise gives you the biggest bang for the buck you can get for almost every health condition we have. But you don’t have to be an obsessive athlete to help your heart stay strong. You just have to find an exercise you love and do it a little bit, just three or even four times a week.

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.