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Tracking heart rate can provide important marker of health issues: Research

November 08, 2015

This study is a sub-analysis of the LIFE (Losartan Intervention For Endpoint) study, which has been completed. It enrolled 9,193 patients from Scandinavia and the United States to test two different treatments (losartan versus atenolol) for hypertension. Among other variables, heart rate was routinely measured in these patients.

In this study, researchers divided 9,190 patients into two groups - those that had a persistent heartbeat rate of 84 or greater per minute, and those that had less. That figure was selected because other studies had suggested it was linked to mortality risk.

After a mean of almost five years, 814 patients (8.9%) died - 438 (4.8%) of which from cardiovascular disease. After adjusting for possible effects of randomized treatment, and for every other risk factor (such as age, gender, race, diabetes, history of heart disease, and so on), the researchers found a strong association between persistent elevated heart rate and risk of death.

The patients died from a variety of causes, but considering all factors, "heart rate remains a significant predictor of increased mortality," Dr. Okin says. "In addition to high blood pressure, this study demonstrated that changing heart rate over time is a highly significant predictor of mortality."

To date, no medication has been approved in the United States that can reduce heart rate without side effects, although a drug (ivabradine) is being tested, he says. Exercise and diet have also been shown to lower heart rate.

Source: New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College