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Heartbeat clue to life and death

Wednesday December 21st, 2011

A healthy person who experiences a rise in resting heart rate may be facing an increased threat to their life, researchers warn today.

Resting heart rate has long been recognised as an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk, say experts in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr Javaid Nauman of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, Norway, and colleagues looked at the possible significance of changes over a ten year period.

They recruited 13,499 men and 15,826 women without known cardiovascular disease, measured resting heart rate twice ten years apart, and followed the participants for a further 12 years. In this time, 3,038 participants died and 388 of the deaths were due to ischemic heart disease.

Analysis showed that an increase in resting heart rate was linked to risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Having a resting heart rate below 70 beats per minute at the first measurement but above 85 at the second measurement was linked to double the risk, compared to below 70 at both measurements.

Having a rate between 70 and 85 beats/min at the first measurement and above 85 at the second measurement was linked to an 80 per cent raised risk.

For overall risk of death, the link was similar "but generally weaker than those for ischemic heart disease," say the researchers. They conclude: "Our findings provide further support for the hypothesis that resting heart rate may be an important prognostic marker for ischemic heart disease and total mortality."

Amy Thompson of the British Heart Foundation added: "If you are concerned about your heart rate, or you think you may have an irregular pulse, please see your GP."

Temporal Changes in Resting Heart Rate and Deaths From Ischemic Heart Disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Nauman, J. et al December 21 2011, Vol. 306, No. 23, pp. 2579-87.

Tags: Europe | Heart Health

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