Higher heart rate may predispose to obesity and diabetes mellitus: 20-year prospective study in a general population

Am J Hypertens. 2009 Feb;22(2):151-5. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2008.331. Epub 2008 Dec 11.


Background: Emerging evidence indicates an association between sympathetic activation and metabolic syndrome. However, sympathetic activation in metabolic syndrome may be a cause, consequence, or just epiphenomenon. To elucidate this issue, the predictive power of resting heart rate for the development of abnormal glucose and lipid metabolisms after 20 years was evaluated in a general population.

Methods: A total of 637 participants (>20 years old) underwent a health examination in 1979 including measurements of blood chemistries. Resting heart rate (bpm) was measured by an electrocardiogram. In 1999, all of the study participants again underwent a health examination, including electrocardiogram and blood chemistries. Because four of them had atrial fibrillation, and 19 subjects were taking antihypertensive medication in 1979, they were excluded from analysis. Therefore, a complete dataset of 614 subjects was available.

Results: As was reported in our previous article, in 1999 we found a linear and significant (P < 0.05) cross-sectional relationship between resting heart rate and a cluster of cardiometabolic risk factors (blood pressure (BP), free fatty acid (FFA), plasma glucose, and homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index). Baseline higher heart rate (heart rate >or=80 bpm in 1979) predicted the development of obesity, diabetes mellitus (DM), and insulin resistance in 1999 after adjustments for age, sex, and other confounders.

Conclusion: This is one of the first prospective reports demonstrating that higher heart rate may predispose to the development of obesity and DM, suggesting that the sympathetic nerve system may play a role in the development of obesity and DM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified