A new study, published in Heart, suggests that a higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality — even in healthy people in good physical condition.
Danish researchers gave physical exams to 5,249 healthy middle-aged and elderly men beginning in 1971. In 1985 and 1986, they tracked survivors, of whom there were 3,354. Of these, 2,798 had sufficient data on heart rate and oxygen consumption for the analysis. Researchers followed them through 2011.
After controlling for physical fitness and many other health and behavioral factors, they found that the higher the resting heart rate, the greater the risk for death. Compared with men with rates of 50 beats a minute or less, those at 71 to 80 beats had a 51 percent greater risk. At 81 to 90 beats, the rate of death was doubled, and over 90 it was tripled.
“If you have two healthy people,” said the lead author, Dr. Magnus Thorsten Jensen, a researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, “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.”