By Tyler Rinko, as told to Ethan Watters
Pretty much every time I would get a checkup at the doctor, they would note that my heart rate was high. I honestly didn’t know if that was something important. Being on a doctor’s examination table can be a little nerve-wracking, so I thought that might explain it. I was a runner, played soccer, and took Crossfit classes. I felt like I was in pretty good shape.
But the truth was, I didn’t know how my heart was performing on a day-to-day basis, and I thought that it was something I should probably be paying attention to. So, a couple of years ago, when I got a gift card for my 30th birthday, I went and bought myself a Fitbit Charge 3 that could measure my heart rate day and night.
As I kept track of my heart rate over the following months, I noticed that my heart rate stayed pretty high, even when I was sleeping or just waking up. On average, it hovered around 100 beats per minute. For someone of my age who is in good shape, a resting heart rate should be under 60 beats per minute. So I made an appointment with a heart specialist and showed them the data that my Fitbit had gathered on my heart rate over time. They decided to do some more tests.
They did an echocardiogram, which is basically using an ultrasound to see my heart in action. Watching the heart from one beat to the next, the doctors can measure how much blood your heart holds when it is relaxed and how much is there after it contracts. Normally your heart moves 50 to 60 percent of the blood it can hold on a given beat, but my heart only moved 30 percent. The doctor told me that my heart was beating fast to make up for not pumping blood very efficiently. Unfortunately, that stress can make the heart weaker over time. It can cause a downward spiral.
The diagnosis was a wake up call, and I knew I had to pay more attention than I had previously and really take this seriously.
With the help of some medication and lifestyle changes, my doctors and I began to figure out how to slow my heart down and build muscle at the same time. I experimented with the breathing and mindfulness exercises on the Fitbit app to learn how I could make improvements to calm my nervous system, and started tracking my sleep as well. I cut out caffeine and all stimulants. I watched the changes in my heart rate over the time between appointment visits and I would bring that information to share with my doctor.
The first medication we tried lowered my resting heart rate some but not a lot. My doctor put me on different medications, and after that, we saw a sharp decline in my resting heart rate. Now my resting heart rate is around 60 beats per minute, and each beat of my heart pumps out about 50 percent of the blood, which is normal.
Last fall, I moved from Philadelphia to Miami to start a new job in real estate. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve joined a kickball team and I’m building a new friendship group. I now have a Fitbit Versa 2 that can record my heart rate variability and oxygen levels when I wear my smartwatch to bed. I still share the data with my doctors, but I’m beginning to use my Versa 2 more to track my exercise and improve my overall wellbeing.
When I think back on the whole experience, I find it interesting that our bodies can be sending us important signals that are easy to overlook. I remember sometimes feeling that my heart was beating fast, but I wasn’t passing out or having chest pains. Fitbit gave me a better chance to understand something I could have overlooked. It helped me see that something serious was off.
I now tell friends and people that follow me on social media to watch out for underlying health conditions that they might not be aware of by listening to what their body is trying to tell them. My Fitbit watch gives me a level of confidence when I see the improvement, and I feel that it will only help me continue making progress on my long-term health goals. Staying healthy means getting the care you need and tracking your progress along the way.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.