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NIH-funded study finds new possible risk factor of heart disease
Date:2/15/2011

, device called a Holter monitor attached to their skin.

Abnormal heart rate turbulence and CRP levels both appeared to independently correlate with an increased likelihood of dying of heart disease in the group that was categorized as healthy, even after controlling for other risk factors. Abnormal heart rate turbulencepresent in about 7 percent of the study participantsalso predicted an increased likelihood of heart disease death in the subclinical and clinical groups, though these results were not as pronounced.

Heart rate turbulence refers to how smoothly the heart rate returns to normal after a premature ventricular contraction, a fairly common event in which the second portion of a heart beat is triggered too soon. Due to the improper timing between the atrial and ventricular contractions, the ventricles haven't fully filled with blood and therefore do not push out enough blood to the body. The brain detects this sub-optimal release of blood and instantly increases the heart rate to pump more blood. However, this overcompensation raises blood pressure, causing the brain to react again and lower the heart rate until blood pressure returns to normal.

By analyzing the heart's electrical signals, physicians can measure the magnitude of the initial heart rate jump (turbulence onset) and the speed at which heart rate returns to normal (turbulence slope), and then determine if the heart rate turbulence response is normal or abnormal.

"A heart rate turbulence measurement is insightful because it offers a sign of how well the autonomic, or subconscious, nervous system is functioning," said study author Phyllis K. Stein, Ph.D., a research associate professor of medicine and director of the Heart Rate Variability Laboratory at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "If someone's heart doesn't react well to these uncoordinated beats that might mean it's not good at reacting to other issues like sudden stress or se
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NHLBI_news@nhlbi.nih.gov
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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