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Elevated heart rate an ‘independent risk factor for death’

An elevated resting heart rate may increase the risk of death by three-fold in apparently fit and healthy individuals, say researchers.

The study

Danish researchers looked at the resting heart rate of 2,798 middle-aged men. After 16 years, the men were followed up through the national Danish registries and had their heart rate, fitness levels and mortality rate assessed. Nearly four out of 10 (39%)  of the men assessed had died. Those with known cardiovascular disease, diabetes, no sinus rhythm or no available data were excluded from the analysis.

The findings

Men who had a resting heart rate between 51 and 80 bpm had an increased risk of death of 40% to 50%, compared with men with the lowest resting heart rate (50 bpm or less). A resting heart rate between 81 and 90 bpm doubled the risk of death, while a resting heart rate of over 90 bpm was associated with a three-fold increase (HR 3.06) in death risk when compared with men with the lowest resting heart rate.  The elevated heart rate was linked with an overall increased death risk of 16% per 10 bpm increase in resting heart rate

What does it mean for GPs?

The Danish researchers concluded: ‘We found that irrespective of level of physical fitness, subjects with high resting heart rates fare worse than subjects with lower heart rates. This suggests that a high resting heart rate is not a mere marker of poor physical fitness, but is an independent risk factor’.

Expert comment

Dr Tim Chico, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘The message I take from this research is the importance of keeping fit as a lifelong habit. I often see patients who have previously been very fit. The important question is “How fit are you right now?”’

Heart 2013, online 17 April


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