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New Factor May Spot Heart Risks in Healthy People: Study

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A possible new risk factor for death from heart disease in seniors has been identified by researchers.

The study of almost 1,300 people aged 65 and older focused on heart rate turbulence, which refers to how smoothly the heart rate returns to normal after a premature contraction, a fairly common event.

Over 14 years of follow-up, abnormal heart rate turbulence was associated with an eight to nine times increased risk of death from heart disease among participants who were considered at low risk for heart disease based on traditional factors such as age, gender, blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, obesity, diabetes and smoking.

About 7 percent of the study participants had abnormal heart rate turbulence, the investigators found.

"These findings suggest that apparently healthy people might be at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and heart rate turbulence may help us identify them," Dr. Susan B. Shurin, acting director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said in an institute news release.

"It will be important to see if we can replicate this finding in other populations," she added.

The NHLBI funded the study, which was published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of the Cardiovascular Electrophysiology.

More information

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

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, Feb. 15, 2011

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