An increase in resting heart rate during middle age can signify an increase in risk of dying from heart disease HealthDay (12/21, Gordon) has reported in a recent large study from Norway. Previous studies have noted that there is a relationship between an increase in resting heart rate and an increase in cardiovascular death and sickness in the general population.

A group of approximately thirty thousand men and women who live in Norway with no known heart disease at the beginning of study were followed greater than ten years. The average age of the participants at the beginning of the study was 52 years old and they had no evidence of heart disease at that time period.

People whose heart rates had increased from under 70 beats per minute to greater than 85 beats per minute over ten years had a 90% increased risk of dying from heart disease in comparison with those whose heart rate stayed around 70 beats per minute. These findings may suggest that an important marker of prognosis for coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease may be both resting heart rate and the change in heart rate over time. This study also showed that individuals who had a relatively low resting heart rate at the beginning of the study had generally a healthier lifestyle than those with a higher resting heart rate. In other studies, an increase in resting heart rate over time was also associated with a worse outcome in patients with both hypertension and coronary artery disease. The importance of this study from Norway is that it was done in a very large group of healthy men and women with very good follow up and excellent statistical analysis. It is possible that this may also indicate that healthy lifestyle including physical activity, exercise and a low prevalence of smoking may go along with this lack of increase in heart rate to help represent improvement in prognosis.

Dr. Steven Reisman, Director of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center states that a cardiology consultation along with analysis of risk factors including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, smoking, elevated lipids including an elevation in cholesterol or triglycerides along with family history is important in overall evaluation of risk for heart attack.