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Faster Heart Rate May Raise Risk of Heart Attack Death

But for women, exercise cuts that risk significantly, study finds

TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- For women under age 70, every 10-beat-per-minute increase in resting heart rate boosts the risk of dying from a heart attack by 18 percent, a new study has found.

Norwegian researchers tracked the health of about 50,000 healthy adults, aged 20 and older, for an average of 18 years. During that time, 6,033 men and 4,442 women died. Heart attack and stroke accounted for more than 58 percent of male deaths and more than 41 percent of deaths among women.

The higher a person's resting pulse, the greater their risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from ischemic heart disease (heart attack and angina). Men with a pulse of 101 beats per minute or more were 73 percent more likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those with a rate of 61 to 72 beats per minute -- the normal healthy range.

Women with a resting heart rate of 101 beats per minute were 42 percent more likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those with a normal pulse. This was particularly true among women younger than 70 with a high resting heart rate -- they were more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack, the study found.

But the study also found that women with higher levels of physical activity had a lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, even if they had a high resting heart rate.

Physically inactive women with a resting heart rate of 88 beats per minute or higher were more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack than those with a lower heart rate. But women with a heart rate of 88 beats per minute or higher who did frequent and intensive exercise were only 37 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. However, this protective effect of exercise wasn't seen in men with high heart rates.

The study was published online Jan. 12 in advance of print publication in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ Journals, news release, Jan. 11, 2010

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