A new study suggests that the signifiers for a high risk of death by cardiac disease are not as obvious as you might think.
Worried about heart disease? Recent research suggests that keeping an eye on your heart rate may not be the best signifier of cardiac health. According to a report from UPI, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have carried out a study that suggests a low heart rate doesn’t actually increase your risk of developing cardiovascular illness.
As low heart rate, known as bradycardia, is characterized by a rate lower than 50 beats per minute. This is anywhere from 10 to 50 bpm lower than the average adult, and can result in dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, or even fainting in some cases.
According to Dr. Ajay Dharod, an internal medicine professor at Wake Forest, however, people with low heart rates can expect their symptoms to stop here for the most part. “Our results should be reassuring for those diagnosed with asymptomatic bradycardia,” he said.
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, and analyzed health records collected by the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis from 2000 to 2002. By examining information from 6,733 people, researchers found that people with an average heart rate lower than 50 bpm were not at a statistically higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The mortality risk among people who did not take heart rate-modifying medications was no higher than people who used medicine to bring their heart rate up into the normal range.
There were 902 people in the study who were taking medications to increase their heart rate, and the study found that these people were not at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. They were, however, more likely to die from heart disease if they developed it anyway.
Dr. Dharod is pleased with the study’s results, but reiterates that this small-scale review is not sufficient to definitively claim that low heart rates have no link to cardiovascular disease. The takeaway: there are probably better methods for detecting and assessing the risk of heart disease than a person’s heart rate.
A press release from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center describing the results of the recent study can be found here.