Study: Heart Rate Predictor Of Lifespan
By Dr. James Palermo // April 29, 2013
Findings Suggest A Reconsideration Of 'Normal'
According to a Danish study published this month in Heart, faster heart rates in otherwise healthy men could be a harbinger of an earlier death. Focusing on the question of whether or not a higher resting heart rate translates into an earlier death even among those who are healthy and exercise regularly, researchers found that resting heart rate is not just a marker of fitness level, but also a “risk factor for mortality independent of physical fitness, leisure-time physical activity and other major cardiovascular risk factors.”
Forty Year Study Shows Heart Rate Independent Risk Factor For Mortality
For the study, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte researchers monitored 5,249 healthy men who were middle aged when the study began in 1971. Of the initial participants, about 3,354 survived to the mid-1980s, and 2,798 of those participants had sufficient data related to heart rate to draw meaningful conclusions. The researchers then continued to monitor the participants’ heart rate and mortality data until 2011, finding that the mortality risk of healthy men increases by 16% for every 10-beat-per-minute increase in their resting heart rate.
Study author and cardiologist, Dr. Magnus Thorsten Jensen, when asked by HealthDay.com if you should be concerned if your heart rate is high, said, “Maybe,” adding, “A high heart rate does not necessarily mean disease, but we know that there is a very strong and significant association between high heart rate and life expectancy.”
Heart Rate Over 90 Triples Risk Of Death
Overall, Jensen and his team of researchers found that men with higher resting heart rates had a greater mortality risk. Specifically:
- Men with resting heart rates of 71 to 80 beats per minute were 51% more likely to die than men with resting heart rates of 50 beats a minute or less; and
- Men with resting heart rates of 81 to 90 beats per minute were twice as likely to die than those at 50 beats per minute.
- Men with resting heart rates over 90 were three times as likely to die than those at 50 beats per minute.
“If you have two healthy people exactly the same in physical fitness, age, blood pressure, and so on, the person with the highest resting heart rate is more likely to have a shorter life span,” Jensen told the New York Times‘ “Well.”
To put the statistics into perspective, Jensen says that men with resting heart rates of 80 beats or higher per minute are likely to die four to five years earlier than men with resting heart rates of 65 beats per minute or less.
Redefines ‘Healthy’ Heart Rate
So, what does this mean? Jensen said the normal range of heart rates at rest, now considered to be 60 to 100 beats per minute, should be reconsidered, since the higher range appears to be a sign of poor health and introduce a mortality risk factor.
Physicians should be aware of the risk of higher heart rate and manage patients accordingly. The basics to help develop and maintain a lower heart rate are a focus on fitness and increasing physical activity, stopping smoking, and either avoiding or moderate use of food and drink that may increase heart rate (coffee, tea, energy drinks, alcohol, chocolate, etc.). Medications may be indicated for some, but frequently prescribed heart drugs like beta blockers that decrease heart rate are generally reserved for those individuals with hypertension, arrhythmias or established cardiovascular disease.