The mortality risk of healthy men increases by 16% for every 10-beat-per-minute increase in their resting heart rate, according to a Danish study published this month in Heart.
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 heart rate data. The researchers then continued to monitor the participants' heart rate and mortality data until 2011.
Overall, the 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.
"If you have two healthy people [with] 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," lead author Magnus Thorsten 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. It is "the same difference in life expectancy ... as having a lifetime cancer diagnosis or not," he says (Bakalar, "Well," New York Times, 4/19; Dotinga, HealthDay, 4/16).