How fast your heart beats when resting can predict how likely you are to die prematurely, a study has found.
The risk of an early death from any cause increases by around nine per cent with every 10 extra beats per minute (bpm), Chinese researchers discovered, reports Daily Mail.
Most people’s resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), but the hearts of professional athletes beat at around 40 bpm.
However those with a resting heart rate of more than 80 bpm had a 45 per cent higher risk of early death from any cause than those with a resting heart rate of 60 to 80 bpm, who had only a 21 per cent increased risk.
The link between faster heart rate and early death was present across the whole population, not just in people with risk factors for heart problems, the authors added.
Doctors have long known that people with lower resting heart rates tend to be fitter and healthier, but this is the first time the gains have been quantified.
Lead researcher Dr Dongfeng Zhang, of the Medical College of Qingdao University, Shandong, China, urged people to pay attention to their resting heart rate and to take measures to lower it.
He said: ‘The available evidence does not fully establish resting heart rate as a risk factor, but there is no doubt that elevated resting heart rate serves as a marker of poor health status.
‘Our results highlight that people should pay more attention to their resting heart rate for their health, and also indicate the potential importance of physical activity to lower resting heart rate.’
To come to their conclusions, Dr Zhang and his team assessed 46 studies involving 1.2million patients and 78,349 deaths from all causes.
They also looked at 848, 320 patients and 25, 800 deaths from heart disease.
The team found a linear increase in resting heart rate and early death.
Specifically, they found the risk of early death from all causes increased by nine per cent with every 10 bpm increase of resting heart rate.
The risk of death from cardiovascular problems (heart attacks, heart disease and stroke) also increased by eight per cent for every 10 bpm raise in resting heart rate.
People with a resting heart rate of more than 80 bpm had a 45 per cent higher risk of early death from any cause than those with a resting heart rate of 60 to 80 bpm, who had a 21 per cent increased risk.
By the time heart rate had reached 90 bpm the chance of early death had nearly doubled.
There was a significant increase of death from heart problems when the heart beat this fast.
The authors said this was consistent with the threshold of 90 or 100 bpm, which medically is known as ‘tachycardia’, or abnormally fast heart rate.
At this rate, doctors try to lower the heart rate in order to prevent cardiovascular problems.
However, the researchers warned the overall risk of an early death is still small.
They conceded there were limitations to the study as various factors can affect measurement of resting heart rate.
Measuring the night time heart rate, when a person is most relaxed, may be a better predictor of the risk of early death, they said.
The research was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.