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Your 30 Second Heart Checkup

By: Kasey Panetta

You might want to check yourself out—for your heart’s sake. Coronary disease takes an average of one life every 39 seconds, but your body could be sending you signs that something’s up before it gets to that point. Read on for a couple of things you need to know.

Understand Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
RHR is a well-known tool for heart health, and maintaining the same RHR over a long span of time is crucial—a RHR of over more than 70 beats per minute means your heart is working too hard.

A recent study from the American Medical Association showed that people whose RHR changed from less than 70 beats/min to 85 beats/min 10 years later were 90 percent more likely to die from heart disease than those who maintained a steady RHR. If yours increases more than 5 beats/minute over 2 years, talk to your cardiologist about what you can do to lower the number. Here’s how to check your resting heart rate.

Check the Colors of Your Nails
Your nail beds are good indicators of heart health, says Joseph Jorizzo, M.D., professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center. If they turn black, blue, or red, there could be a problem. Black and blue spots or streaks—called purpura—can indicate circulatory problems and diseases that cause blood thickening. Red nail beds can be a sign of congestive heart disease. If you notice any major change in nail color, make an appointment with your dermatologist, says Joshua Fox, M.D., medical director of Advanced Dermatology.

Look at Your Eyelids
Xanthomas—fatty deposits in the skin caused by high cholesterol—are soft, yellowish, growths usually found on the upper eyelids. (They’re also found on hands, elbows, and knees.) One cause of them can be excess lipids in the blood, which accumulate in skin cells. Those same high blood lipid levels increase your risk of vascular problems and coronary heart disease, leading to heart attack, stroke, and poor blood circulation, says Anne Hamik, M.D., professor at Case Western Reserve University Cardiovascular Research Institute. How? As the amount of lipids in your body increases, they are stored in the cells that line blood vessels. If the cells tear, the lipids are released into the blood stream, blocking passages and leading to a heart attack or stroke. As long as you treat the high cholesterol, the deposits themselves don’t need to be removed unless they’re causing discomfort.

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