Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jump in Resting Heart Rate Might Signal Higher Death Risk

Resting heart rate may be an important prognostic marker for ischemic heart disease and total mortality.

Among men and women without known cardiovascular disease, a rise in resting heart rate over a 10-year period was associated with an increased risk for death from all causes and from ischemic heart disease, new research indicates.

Javaid Nauman and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway set out to determine whether RHR changes influenced the risk of death from ischemic heart disease in a sample study of 13,499 adult males and 15,826 females - none of them had any history of cardiovascular disease.

Resting heart rate was measured on 2 occasions around 10 years apart. The second RHR measurement was obtained between August 1995 and June 1997, with subsequent mortality follow-up until December 31, 2008. A total of 60 participants were lost to follow-up, all due to emigration from Norway.

During an average 12 years of follow-up, 3,038 participants died. Overall, 975 deaths were related to cardiovascular disease and 388 to ischaemic heart disease.

They found that those with a resting heart rate that rose from under 70 beats per minutes to over 85 within ten years had a 90% increased risk for death from ischaemic heart disease compared with participants whose resting heart rates stayed below 70 throughout the whole study period.

Participants with resting heart rates between 70 and 85 beats per minutes at the first measurement and rose to over 85 beats per minute by the end of the ten years had an 80% increased risk for death from ischaaemic heart disease.

In general, a slower pulse is an indicator of better heart health. For people who'd like to improve their heart health, the standard advice still holds true. "It's always beneficial to increase your fitness level, so exercise more. Maintain a healthy weight, and eat healthier foods, and don't smoke," study senior author Ulrik Wisloff advised.

Wisloff said that people should know their heart rates over time. And, if you see changes, let your doctor know. "It's easy, free and it may be important to you," Wisloff said.


Nauman J, Janszky I, Vatten LJ, Wisløff U. Temporal Changes in Resting Heart Rate and Deaths From Ischemic Heart Disease. JAMA. 2011;306(23):2579-2587.doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1826

More information

Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine to learn how to take your pulse and find your resting heart rate.

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