Elevated resting heart rate is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in healthy men and women

Am Heart J. 2010 Apr;159(4):612-619.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2009.12.029.


Background: Elevated resting heart rate (RHR) is known to be associated with reduced survival but inconsistencies remain, including lack of significance in most studies of healthy women, lack of independence from systolic blood pressure (SBP) in some, and the suggestion that RHR is merely functioning as a marker of physical inactivity or other comorbidities. We aimed to clarify these inconsistencies.

Methods: We analyzed the effect of RHR on end points in the National FINRISK Study; a representative, prospective study using Cox proportional hazards model. Ten-thousand five-hundred nineteen men and 11,334 women were included, excluding those with preexisting coronary heart disease, angina, heart failure, or on antihypertensive therapy.

Results: The hazard ratios for cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality for each 15 beats/min increase in RHR were 1.24 (1.11-1.40) in men and 1.32 (1.08-1.60) in women, adjusted for age, gender, total cholesterol, physical activity (categorical), SBP, body mass index, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This relationship remained significant after exclusion of those with comorbidities and events occurring within first 2 years of observation. Relationship with coronary mortality was stronger and with total mortality was slightly weaker. Inclusion of nonfatal end points weakened the relationship.

Conclusions: A strong, graded, independent relationship between RHR and incident CVD was demonstrated. This was consistent in healthy men and women. We have clarified that the relationship is independent of SBP and that the temporal sequence would be compatible with a causal relationship. New findings include independence from both a validated measure of physical activity and comorbidities and the demonstration of a stronger effect for fatal than nonfatal events, supporting increased arrhythmogenicity of one of the mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors