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Chaparral 2015-2016: 24.1 FitTips

FitTip (September 2015)


by Erin Calderone

HeartFIT TIP #7: Your Heart

A recent article in the LA Times tells us that American’s hearts are aging faster than the number of candles on their birthday cake.[1] On average, men’s hearts are 7.8 years “older” and women’s hearts are 5.4 years ahead of them. Yes this is somewhat of an over-simplified way of looking at heart function, but the truth is that those symptoms of heart disease we might not expect for a few decades yet could be starting to affect our tickers right now. In fact, some of the earliest signs of atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the walls of arteries) can be seen in children as young as 5-10 years old![2]

            So how can we turn back time on the inside? The first step is to get to know yourself. If you know some health numbers for yourself like your blood pressure, height and weight, you can use the simple calculator here: to estimate your heart’s “age” and risk of cardiovascular disease. Of course going to your doctor for a physical and routine blood test can also give you more insight. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and prediabetes often have no overt symptoms but can significantly increase the wear and tear on your heart.

            The next step to the fountain of cardiovascular youth is… you guessed it! Diet and exercise. As long as your doc says you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program, putting a little stress on the heart every day is actually a really good thing. But in order for exercise to be effective, it has to stress your heart just enough – not too little and not too much – to cause your heart to get bigger, stronger and more efficient. A great way to know if you’re in the cardio sweet-spot is to monitor your heart rate during your workouts. Below is a table to help you estimate where your target heart rate should be.


Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%

20 years

100-170 beats per minute

200 beats per minute

30 years

95-162 beats per minute

190 beats per minute

35 years

93-157 beats per minute

185 beats per minute

40 years

90-153 beats per minute

180 beats per minute

45 years

88-149 beats per minute

175 beats per minute

50 years

85-145 beats per minute

170 beats per minute

55 years

83-140 beats per minute

165 beats per minute

60 years

80-136 beats per minute

160 beats per minute

65 years

78-132 beats per minute

155 beats per minute

70 years

75-128 beats per minute

150 beats per minute


[2] HBO series Weight of the Nation, Part 1: Consequences

Table from the American Heart Association at


If you have a heart rate monitor, you can wear it during your workouts to track your heart rate constantly, but if you don’t, there’s a free method too. Take your pulse at the carotid artery (neck) or radial artery (thumb side of your wrist) with the first two fingers (not the thumb). Count it for 15 seconds and then multiply that number by 4. Or, divide your target heart rate by 4 to get your target 15-second pulse. Either way, it’s a good idea to keep track of it every 3-5 minutes while you exercise to make sure you stay in that zone.

            The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends we spend 20-60 minutes in our target heart rate zone on 3-5 days per week in order to improve our cardiovascular fitness. If you’re just starting out, aim for 20 minutes, 3 days per week and work your way up. And as your heart gets stronger and younger, chances are you’ll feel stronger and younger too!







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