Heart Rate Predicts Women's Heart Risk
Study Shows Resting Heart Rate May Predict Heart Attacks in Postmenopausal Women
Feb. 3, 2009 -- A woman's resting pulse rate is a good predictor of her heart attack risk regardless of
other risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption,
A team of scientists analyzed records of 129,135 postmenopausal women who
had no history of heart problems. Their pulse rates were measured at the start
of the study. The researchers found that during almost eight years of
follow-up, women with the highest heart rates -- at or above 76 beats per
minute -- were much more likely to suffer a heart attack than the women with
the lowest resting pulse rates, 62 beats per minute or less.
This association held true regardless of factors such as physical activity levels and did
not differ between races or women with or without diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol abnormalities,
according to the study authors, led by Judith Hsia, MD, a professor at George
Washington University School of Medicine and senior director of clinical
research for the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
Even after adjusting for factors which might affect resting heart rate,
including nervousness, depression, tobacco use, alcohol
use, and body mass index, women with
higher baseline heart rates were still at greater risk for heart attack during
follow-up. The relationship between resting heart rate and coronary risk was
stronger in women less than 65 years old than in women over 65.
The data for the study came from the Women's Health Initiative. Women with a
history of heart attack, stroke, or similar serious
problems were excluded. Resting heart rate was obtained by trained observers
after the women sat "quietly" for five minutes.
Although more expensive and elaborate methods are available to assess risk,
Hsia and colleagues "found that simple measurement of resting pulse
independently predicts coronary events, but not stroke, in post-menopausal
The connection "is less than the association with cigarette smoking or
diabetes mellitus but might be large enough to be clinically meaningful and is
independent of physical activity."
The study appears in the Feb. 4 issue of BMJ.