Stairs test can help assess heart health

Climbing four flights of stairs in less than a minute indicates good heart health, according to research presented at EACVI – Best of Imaging 2020, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

The ladder test is an easy way to check your heart health. If it takes you more than a minute and a half to climb four flights of stairs, your health is not optimal and it would be a good idea to see a doctor. “

Dr. Jesús Peteiro, Cardiologist Hospital Universitario A Coruña, Spain.

This study was carried out to examine the relationship between a daily activity, that is, climbing stairs, and the results obtained from exercise tests in a laboratory. “The idea was to find a simple and inexpensive method to assess heart health,” Dr. Peteiro said. “This can help clinicians classify patients for more extensive examinations.”

The study included 165 symptomatic patients referred for stress testing due to known or suspected coronary artery disease. Symptoms included chest pain or shortness of breath during exertion. The participants walked or ran on a treadmill, gradually increasing the intensity and continuing until exhaustion. Exercise capacity was measured as metabolic equivalents (METs) .2 After resting for 15 to 20 minutes, patients were asked to climb four flights of stairs (60 stairs) at a rapid pace without stopping, but also without running, and the time was recorded. .

The researchers analyzed the relationship between the METs achieved during the exercise test and the time it took to climb four flights of stairs. Patients who climbed the stairs in less than 40-45 seconds achieved more than 9-10 METs. Previous studies have shown that 10 METs during a stress test are associated with a low mortality rate (1% or less per year, or 10% in 10 years). In contrast, patients who took 1.5 minutes or more to climb the stairs achieved less than 8 METs, which translates into a mortality rate of 2-4% per year, or 30% in 10 years.

During the treadmill test, the researchers also generated images of the heart to assess its function during exercise; If the heart functions normally during exercise, this indicates a low probability of coronary artery disease. They then compared these findings with the stair climbing results. About 58% of the patients who completed the stair climb in more than 1.5 minutes had abnormal heart function during the treadmill examination. In contrast, only 32% of those who climbed the stairs in less than a minute had abnormal heart function during the tape test.

Dr. Peteiro noted that the correlation between stair time and exercise capacity (ie, MET) would be similar in the general population. But the corresponding mortality rates and cardiac function imaging would be more favorable than for patients with symptoms and suspected or confirmed coronary artery disease.


European Society of Cardiology