Folks, February is more than simply the month of love and Valentine’s Day. Granted, though it is when many give out their paper hearts as gifts to loved ones – February also stands tall as American Heart Month. And it is during this time that we focus our attentions on the pervasive, silent killer that is heart disease in hopes of learning more about it – and preventing so much loss of life from it.
At the Heart of What’s the Matter
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. On average, every single year, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in our country. That’s 1 of every 4 deaths in America. And the saddest part is that we bring this doom upon ourselves.
Though, as the American Heart Association tells us, there are many heart conditions, in general, heart issues occur when plaque builds up in our arteries, narrowing them over time and gradually reducing blood flow to the organ. And what causes this plaque to build up, you ask? Oh, just a bunch of unhealthy human behaviors like smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and not getting enough exercise.
However, the good news is that heart attacks and strokes are completely preventable problems. By making purposeful and healthy lifestyle changes, we can stop the hardening of our hearts. And by exercising with the help of any of these 3 devices detailed below, you can keep your ticker beating out a beautiful rhythm for a long time to come.
Staying on Beat, While Still Marching to Your Own Drummer
According to a Pew Research Center study, 7 in 10 adults in the United States track a health indicator for themselves or for a loved one, but half of those trackers only keep up with it “in their heads.” But as we move more and more toward a nation that partakes in the “The Quantified Self” movement, this tracking and its data becomes increasingly important for the sake of making and maintaining positive, healthy life choices. And rather than trying to keep track of it all in your head, or feeling like you’re wasting time jotting down every movement you make, let technology pump those numbers out for you.
As the lovechild of a fitness tracker and a smartwatch, Garmin has packed a lot into its Vivosmart HR hybrid wristband. Though it does add on a little bulk; the large, backlit, always-on touchscreen display is easy to read outdoors and will even show notifications for text messages, emails, calendar events and social media alerts – basically anything your phone receives. There’s also a weather widget, and you can even control music playback right from your wrist, but it won’t show artist or song information. And, of course, it shows the important stuff, like your stats on steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed, and activity intensity. Plus, even with the screen always on, it maintains a battery life of about 6 days, and you can still take a shower with it or even go for a swim in the pool.
The band itself is thick and made securely of quality material, but you do have to wear it relatively tightly to give the optical heart-rate sensor a chance to get accurate readings. However, it will take that information and wirelessly sync with the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone for better analysis of the data tracked. But, do keep in mind that there is no smart coaching or personalized feedback built-in, as the app isn’t (yet) as refined as some of its competitors’.
#2) FitBit Charge HR
When it comes to fitness trackers, Fitbit is the name brand that most folks toss around naturally. In fact, the company alone owns more than a third of the wearable tech market, and many with a fitness tracker tend to own a product from their lineup – giving it the additional edge of community, as fitness tracking is more fun with friends.
With its PurePulse Heart Rate Technology, the FitBit Charge HR provides continuous, automatic heart rate monitoring and simplified heart rate zones – all without having to wear an uncomfortable chest strap. But, for this device in specific, the heartbeat monitor is just one item in a long list of features that this light and comfortable little guy offers. The device tracks your workouts as well as your all-day activities like steps walked, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, and active minutes. And then you can wear it at night to measure your sleep quality and wake with a silent, vibrating alarm.
While no device is without its flaws (this ones doesn’t have much in the way of water resistance, so don’t try showering or swimming with it), this gadget is the most complete product of its kind you can buy. It boasts a 5-7 day battery life, syncs data wirelessly and automatically with both PCs and Macs, and it can communicate directly via Bluetooth with more than 150 leading smartphones. And not only does the app let you access your stats anywhere and analyze your progress in charts and graphs, it also connects with a ton of third-party apps – making it one of the most plugged-in ecosystems around.
If the two fitness trackers above are doing too much for you, then the Polar FT7 is likely your best fit. Weighing in at only 1.1 ounces, this tracker is one of the lightest, wrist-based heart rate monitors on the market, and it’s just as easy to use.
With the Polar FT7, you can track your daily exercise history over time, storing up to 99 laps of data to show you a weekly account of your heart rates gathered via the included chest strap. And though there is no Bluetooth syncing, Polar does give you the option to upload your data from the watch to an online personal trainer account (additional Polar FlowLink accessory required). Moreover, its coin-cell battery has an extremely long life – needing only be replaced every 11 months or so – and it’s totally user-changeable.
The Polar FT7’s innovative EnergyPointer feature graphically displays real-time information during workouts, letting you know if you’re burning fat or improving aerobic fitness. And when your heart rate reaches your target zone, you’ll hear a beep of encouragement to maintain your current level of intensity. Combine that with the web-based Training Load program to show your daily cumulative workouts and to get digital personal trainer advice for when rest days are needed and when it’s best to train harder in order to maintain performance improvement.
But, most importantly, all of this heart rate monitoring tech is to promote heart health. And by measuring how fast your heart is beating, trackers can more accurately gauge how many calories you’re burning. And as your fitness improves, your heart becomes more efficient and is able to pump more blood and oxygen to your muscles with every beat – explaining why a decrease in resting heart rate suggests improved health, and why we ever started monitoring it at all.