Does a Fast Heart Rate Mean a Greater Risk for Heart Disease?

silent heart attackWhat does your pulse rate say about you? According to a new study, it could indicate whether you’re at greater risk for heart disease. A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that a high resting pulse rate may be a marker for an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Does a Fast Heart Rate Mean a Greater Risk for Heart Disease?

The study looked at 50,000 men and women without heart disease over an eighteen year period. After taking into account their lifestyle and exercise habits, they found a high resting pulse rate was associated with a greater risk of heart rate. In men, for each ten beat rise above normal, there was a ten percent higher chance of dying from heart disease. In women, the risk of heart disease was also elevated with a high resting pulse rate - although the effects were age dependent with a higher death rate seen only in women under the age of seventy.

The Effects of Physical Activity

The good news is that in women who had a high resting pulse rate in this study could reduce their risk with exercise, but the same effect wasn’t seen in men. Even regular physical activity didn’t seem to reverse the higher heart disease risk associated with a faster resting pulse rate in men. In this study, how high was too high? The standard, normal pulse rate was considered to be between 61 and 72 beats per minute.

What Can Alter a Normal Pulse Rate?

Keep in mind that many factors can alter the heart rate such as anxiety and physical exertion, so an accurate resting pulse rate can only be measured when a person is relaxed and hasn’t been moving around for at least five minutes. Some medical problems such as an overactive thyroid, a fever, low blood sugar, or other disorders can cause the resting pulse rate to be abnormally high, as can certain medications including caffeine and nicotine.

What Does This Mean?

If you have a high resting pulse rate, it would be wise to get a heart exam to find out what’s causing it and to focus in on any other risk factors for heart disease you have that can be better controlled such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or a high sugar level. Losing weight can also help to lower resting pulse rate.

What About Physical Activity?

Although this study showed that physical activity only lowered the risk of heart disease in women with a fast heart rate, physical activity in men has other heart-related benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing obesity and is still an important part of a healthy lifestyle – regardless of heart rate. Just make sure you get a doctor’s clearance first.

The Bottom Line?

If you have a high resting pulse rate, it’s important to reduce your other risk factors for heart disease. Use it as motivation to be more active and lead a healthier lifestyle to keep your heart as healthy as possible.

Please call your HealthwoRx™ physician at 954.967.6550 to schedule a health evaluation.