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Herriman Journal

Use your smartwatch to monitor your heart and improve your cardiovascular health

Feb 03, 2022 02:54PM ● By Karmel Harper

67-year-old Nancy Webster from Riverton uses her smartwatch to monitor her water aerobics workouts where she typically burns over 600 calories. (Karmel Harper/City Journals)

By Karmel Harper | [email protected]

February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on our cardiovascular health. While paper and chocolate hearts abound, February also raises awareness for the health of our beating hearts, the life-sustaining organ that pumps oxygen throughout our bodies. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and is responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths. WHO said, “Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been from this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 2019.” (Source: www.who.int). 

While heart disease has typically afflicted older adults, heart attacks have increased in younger people under the age of 40, with a steady rise in patients between 20 - 30 years old. 

The Cardio Metabolic Institute said, “It was rare for anyone younger than 40 to have a heart attack. Now 1 in 5 heart attack patients are younger than 40 years of age. Here’s another troubling fact to highlight the problem: Having a heart attack in your 20s or early 30s is more common. Between the years 2000-2016, the heart attack rate increased by 2% every year in this young age group.” 

Reasons for this steady rise among younger people are increasing risk factors affecting this age group such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, smoking and vaping, and substance abuse. While lifestyle changes such as proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and avoiding substance abuse can significantly mitigate heart disease risk factors, regular exercise is a very effective method for combating heart disease.

Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D, said, “Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health. Although flexibility doesn’t contribute directly to heart health, it’s nevertheless important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.” 

For aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, measuring one’s heart rate is standard to ensure one works out within the prescribed heart rate zones for optimal benefits. Heart rate training zones are a percentage of your maximum heart rate or heartbeats per minute. With the emergence of smartwatches and other devices, people can monitor their heart rate in real-time and adjust their exercise intensity. These devices incorporate personal biometrics such as age, gender and weight and calculate individualized heart rate training zones.  

To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 25-year-old’s maximum heart rate is 195 heartbeats (bpm) per minute (220-25=195), and a 65-year-old’s maximum heart rate is 155 bpm. From this calculation, heart rate zones are established (see photo). The number of zones can vary based on the device’s monitoring system, but a popular standard is five zones:

  1. 1.The warm-up or Healthy Heart zone is 50% - 60% of your max heart rate (Mhr).
  2. 2.The fat burn or Weight Management zone is 50% - 70% of your Mhr.
  3. 3.The cardio or Aerobic zone is 70% - 80% of your Mhr.
  4. 4.The intense or Anaerobic zone is 80% - 90% of your Mhr.
  5. 5.The maximum or Red Line zone is 90% - 100% of your Mhr.

However, this simple equation, which only uses the single metric of age, does not consider whether the individual is a seasoned triathlete or an unconditioned sedentary desk worker. Doctors typically advise those with heart conditions on their heart rate zone ceilings. As exercising in Zone 5 or higher puts significant strain on your heart, more fit individuals can reach this level for short bouts. Therefore, monitoring heart rate over time during exercise bouts to see improvement trends is practical. 

Even if you don’t exercise regularly, those with heart conditions can use a smartwatch to monitor their heart throughout the day. Kaysville’s Scot Vore said, “I use my smartwatch to monitor my steps and my heart for Afib.” 

Herriman resident Paula Nielson-Williams is the Recreation Manager and 29-year veteran of Salt Lake Community College’s Exercise Science department. Nielson-Williams said, “Exercise is good for heart health. American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate-vigorous exercise or an hour a day of moderate exercise. So get out walking, lift some weights, or play with your kids.”

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