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What Your Pulse Reveals About Your Health

Date:11-09-2013 07:50:10 read:2
Category:Man-->Diseases

Your heart health, at your fingertip.

The latest health breakthrough could be right at your fingertips.

Soon, doctors may be able to test the flexibility of your aorta—a major artery that, when stiff, can increase your risk of dying from heart attack or stroke—by checking the pulse in your finger, according to a new University of Iowa study.

The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart throughout your body, and over time, due to blood pressure changes, cholesterol deposits, and normal aging, its elastic properties can degenerate, says Tanvir Hussain, M.D., a preventive cardiologist in Los Angeles. Docs don’t always check for aortic stiffness—in part because doing so usually involves taking your pulse in two places (including the femoral artery deep in your groin), says study author Gary Pierce, Ph.D.

But Pierce and his research team developed an easy way to measure stiffness: with a tool called the transducer that’s placed on the finger, and a formula that includes age and body mass index. The resulting number tells your doctor how long it takes your pulse to travel from point to point, a key measure of your aorta’s elasticity.

The test is still in the developmental stage, but in the meantime, know that aortic stiffness tends to be caused by things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, says Dr. Hussain. So if you maintain a healthy weight, regularly exercise, and try relaxation techniques—a few minutes of slow, deep breathing can lower your BP by about 4 millimeters of mercury—you’ll keep your heart in check, too.

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