Take a Walk to Measure Heart Health

How healthy is your heart? If you're on medication to lower your blood pressure, control cholesterol, or treat heart disease, you know you've got important decisions to make about your diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle choices.

All the diagnostic tests available to measure heart health can give you and your doctor a lot of data about your ticker. But a database of biometric data about your heart isn't the only way a doctor can measure heart health. There's at least one other test, and it doesn't require a blood sample or medical equipment. Go for a walk. If walking just a short distance is difficult, your heart still has a lot of healing to do. And it could be an indicator of an increased mortality risk, according to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

In the study, researchers followed 15,000 people who had heart surgery. Before surgery, they measured gait speed and recorded how long it took people to walk 16 feet. The slowest walkers were also the most likely to die early, after heart surgery. For every second longer it took to walk the short distance, a patient's risk of early death went up by 11 percent. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It claims the lives of about 614,000 people a year. And many more have heart attacks, or require medication and treatment to manage heart health.

You can't control every risk factor to prevent or manage heart disease. But you can take steps to improve heart health by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and making smart lifestyle choices. In fact, poor eating habits and lack of exercise are the primary reasons so many people have heart disease in the United States.

What can you do about it? Follow advice from your doctor. Get moving. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, walking is great. Limit the amount of sodium in your diet, and eat heart healthy foods like >Beef Bourguignon, Brown Rice & Broccoli, Chicken Marsala With Rice & Peas & Carrots, or a Vegetable Caponata with Orzo & Spinach.

For a complete list of heart-healthy meals check out our selection of Low-Sodium meals.