How the Heart Beats

A Danish study, recently published in Heart, has found that resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality. The study followed 2,798 subjects for 16 years and over the course of that time, found that those with elevated resting heart rates had a higher risk of mortality. Further, the study found that those individuals with a resting heart rate greater than 90 were at highest risk. The risk of mortality was found to increase 16% per 10 beats per minute.  Compared to subjects with a resting heart rate below 50, those at 71-80 beats per minute had a 51% greater risk of mortality; at 81-90 beats per minute, the risk of mortality doubled, and over 90, it tripled.

A similar study published in Circulation: Heart Failure found similar results. This study analyzed data from Rotterdam Study. This study excluded patients with prevalent heart failure and found similar results: resting heart rate is an independent risk factor for the development of heart failure in healthy older men in the general population.

Naturally, heart rate can vary amongst individuals; stress levels, physical fitness and prescription medications can affect heart rate.  There are several lifestyle changes that benefit the resting heart rate including exercise, decreasing stress, avoiding tobacco products and losing weight, if necessary. It’s not surprising that exercising every day can gradually decrease your resting heart rate; it can also benefit patients who want to lose weight. Healthy stress management can also provide long term benefits. Practices like medication, tai chi and biofeedback can help to lower resting heart rate over time.  Listen to your heart, it might be a substantial predictor of the future.

References:

New York Times, Well Blog

Heart, Elevated resting heart rate, physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a 16-year follow-up in the Copenhagen Male Study

American Heart Association

Circulation: Heart Failure, Resting Heart Rate and the Risk of Heart Failure in Healthy Adults: The Rotterdam Study

Harvard University

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