Ticking toward Trouble: Long-term rise in heart rate portends death

12:16pm, November 21, 2006

Men whose hearts beat faster over time are likely to die earlier than those whose hearts maintain an unchanging cadence year after year, according to a 20-year study of French police officers. But a heart with a slowing rate is likely to keep beating for the longest time.

The newfound relationship suggests that doctors could use trends in the routine vital sign of heart rate to gauge which of their patients are in danger.

Doctors have long associated a racing heart with poor health and risk of death, says Xavier P. Jouven, a Paris-based electrophysiologist and epidemiologist at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital–INSERM. However, no past study has examined changes in heart rate over time, he says.

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