Heart Rate, Life Expectancy and the Cardiovascular System: Therapeutic Considerations

Cardiology. 2015;132(4):199-212. doi: 10.1159/000435947. Epub 2015 Aug 15.


It has long been known that life span is inversely related to resting heart rate in most organisms. This association between heart rate and survival has been attributed to the metabolic rate, which is greater in smaller animals and is directly associated with heart rate. Studies have shown that heart rate is related to survival in apparently healthy individuals and in patients with different underlying cardiovascular diseases. A decrease in heart rate due to therapeutic interventions may result in an increase in survival. However, there are many factors regulating heart rate, and it is quite plausible that these may independently affect life expectancy. Nonetheless, a fast heart rate itself affects the cardiovascular system in multiple ways (it increases ventricular work, myocardial oxygen consumption, endothelial stress, aortic/arterial stiffness, decreases myocardial oxygen supply, other) which, in turn, may affect survival. In this brief review, the effects of heart rate on the heart, arterial system and survival will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arterial Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors