Can Heart Rate Predict Health Outcomes?

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A recent study investigated whether resting heart rate and changes in heart rate over time are associated with health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease.

Recent research has suggested that a higher resting heart rate may be a potential risk factor for adverse outcomes. Furthermore, studies have found that changes in heart rate over time are associated with outcomes in individuals with heart failure. More precisely, a rise in heart rate was associated with higher adverse outcomes, whereas a drop in heart rate was associated with better health outcomes.

Vazir and colleagues recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Cardiology, to investigate whether resting heart rate and change in heart rate over time are associated with health outcomes. They recruited 15,680 participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a large, multicenter, community-based cohort. The researchers measured the last updated heart rate, as well as the change in heart rate over the course of three years. The participants were then followed for approximately twenty-eight years for incidence of new cardiovascular events, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.

Higher Resting Heart Rate Associated with Increased Risk

The study revealed that a higher resting heart rate (above 66 beats per minute) had a higher all-cause mortality than individuals with lower heart rates (50 or 60 beats per minute). In addition, the authors discovered that a heart rate increase of five beats per minute was associated with 12% higher risk of all-cause mortality and a 13% higher risk of incident heart failure. The increase of five beats per minute was also associated with a 9% higher risk of heart attacks, 6% higher risk of stroke, 13% higher risk of cardiovascular death, 12% higher risk of non-cardiovascular death, and an 8% higher risk of cancer death. Overall, the study demonstrated that an increase in heart rate was significantly associated with elevated risk, whereas a decrease in heart rate was significantly associated with lower risk.

In conclusion, the study found a significant association between changes in heart rate and health outcomes. The authors argue that heart rate could potentially be a useful and easily measured biomarker of overall health. They also suggest that modifying heart rate in select populations may be an effective intervention strategy that reduces the risk of disease and improves health outcomes.

Written by Haisam Shah, BSc

Reference: Vazir A, Claggett B, Cheng S, Skali H, Shah A, Agulair D, Ballantyne CM, Vardeny O, Solomon SD. Association of Resting Heart Rate and Temporal Changes in Heart Rate With Outcomes in Participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. JAMA Cardiol. Published online January 24, 2018.

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