Resting heart rate and risk of sudden cardiac death in the general population: influence of left ventricular systolic dysfunction and heart rate-modulating drugs

Heart Rhythm. 2013 Aug;10(8):1153-8. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 May 13.


Background: Higher levels of resting heart rate (HR) have been associated with sudden cardiac death (SCD) but mechanisms are poorly understood. We hypothesized that severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) and HR-modulating drugs explain the HR-SCD relationship.

Objective: To evaluate the relationship between HR, severe LVSD, HR-modulating drugs, and SCD in the community by using a case-control approach.

Methods: From the ongoing Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, SCD cases (n = 378) aged ≥35 years and with electrocardiogram-documented resting HR were compared to 378 age- and gender-matched control subjects with coronary artery disease (mean age 68 ± 13 years; 69% man). Associations with SCD were assessed by using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Mean resting HR was significantly higher among SCD cases compared to controls (7.5 beats/min difference; P < .0001). HR was a significant determinant of SCD after adjustment for significant comorbidities and medications (odds ratio for 10 beats/min increase 1.26; 95% confidence interval 1.14-1.38; P < .0001). After considering LVSD, resting HR was slightly attenuated but remained significantly associated with SCD (P = .005). In addition to diabetes and digoxin as well as pulmonary and renal disease, LVSD was also independently associated with SCD (odds ratio 1.79; 95% confidence interval 1.11-2.87; P = .02).

Conclusions: Contrary to expectations, the significant relationship between increased resting HR and SCD persisted even after adjustment for LVSD and HR-modulating drugs. These findings suggest a potential role for additional novel interventions/therapies that modulate autonomic tone.

Keywords: Beta-blockers; CAD; CI; Cardiac arrest; Case-control study; EKG; EMS; HR; Heart failure; LVSD; Medications; Mortality; OR; SCD; confidence interval; coronary artery disease; electrocardiogram; emergency medical services; heart rate; left ventricular systolic dysfunction; odds ratio; sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiotonic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coronary Artery Disease / complications*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Digoxin / administration & dosage
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology*


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Digoxin