Resting heart rate and relation to disease and longevity: past, present and future

Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2019 Feb-Apr;79(1-2):108-116. doi: 10.1080/00365513.2019.1566567. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Assessment of heart rate has been used for millennia as a marker of health. Several studies have indicated that low resting heart rate (RHR) is associated with health and longevity, and conversely, a high resting heart to be associated with disease and adverse events. Longitudinal studies have shown a clear association between increase in heart rate over time and adverse events. RHR is a fundamental clinical characteristic and several trials have assessed the effectiveness of heart rate lowering medication, for instance beta-blockers and selective sinus node inhibition. Advances in technology have provided new insights into genetic factors related to RHR as well as insights into whether elevated RHR is a risk factor or risk marker. Recent animal research has suggested that heart rate lowering with sinus node inhibition is associated with increased lifespan. Furthermore, genome-wide association studies in the general population using Mendelian randomization have demonstrated a causal link between heart rate at rest and longevity. Furthermore, the development in personal digital devices such as mobile phones, fitness trackers and eHealth applications has made heart rate information and knowledge in this field as important as ever for the public as well as the clinicians. It should therefore be expected that clinicians and health care providers will be met by relevant questions and need of advice regarding heart rate information from patients and the public. The present review provides an overview of the current knowledge in the field of heart rate and health.

Keywords: Heart rate; cardiovascular system; longevity; mortality; prognosis; pulse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cardiac Glycosides / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / drug effects
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sinoatrial Node / drug effects
  • Sinoatrial Node / physiology
  • Sinoatrial Node / physiopathology


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Biomarkers
  • Cardiac Glycosides
  • Cardiovascular Agents