Heart Health

02 February 2009

Heart rate tied to heart attack risk

If your heart consistently beats too fast, you're at increased risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, new research shows.

New clinical trial data have confirmed what many heart specialists have suspected for years. If your heart consistently beats too fast, you're at increased risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

The findings of the landmark BEAUTIfUL trial were announced at a major cardiology conference in Europe recently and have confirmed years of accumulating evidence that if you have coronary heart disease and your heart beats too fast, your risk of suffering a major cardiac event is higher.

It's common knowledge that if you want to keep your heart healthy, you need to eat sensibly and exercise regularly. Smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels all contribute to your risk of developing heart disease. Losing weight, quitting smoking and managing high blood pressure and cholesterol are therefore important to maintain optimal heart health, but still may not be enough if your heart beats too fast all the time.

Johannesburg cardiologist Dr Colin Schamroth says, “We have data to show that as heart rate increases so does the likelihood of heart failure and sudden death. This relationship is linear and independent of other cardiac risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. The association was present in 37 of 39 studies and shows a consistency similar to that of smoking when it comes to predicting the risk of heart disease.”

70 beats per minute
A key finding of the BEAUTIfUL study was that the increase in risk was noted when the resting heart rate – in other words, the number of times the heart beats per minute when an individual is not actively exercising – rose above 70 beats per minute. Until now, doctors had generally defined a dangerously high heart rate as being greater than 90 beats per minute.

“The take-home message is that in patients with coronary artery disease, a heart rate of more than 70 beats per minute is indeed a risk factor for future events,” says Dr Schamroth. “The BEAUTIfUL results suggest that we may need to redefine a ‘stable cardiac patient’ and also reassess what ‘normal’ is when it comes to heart rate.”

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(Health24, February 2009)


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