Higher Heart Rate at Rest Increases Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

New research shows that people with higher resting heart rate seem to be at increased risk for atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance experienced by 2.2million Americans, according to statistics from the American Heart Association. Atrial fibrillation causes blood to circulate less effectively to the organs of the body, and can lead to blood clots and stroke.

The Losartan Intervention for End Point Reduction in Hypertension (LIFE) study, published in the December 2008 issue of Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, tracked 8828 patients with high blood pressure over a period of five years, evaluating heart rates at baseline, six months, and yearly.

The research found that resting heart rate greater than 84 beats per minute increased the risk of atrial fibrillation by sixty one percent. The study also showed that for every increase in resting heart rate of ten beats per minute, the risk of atrial fibrillation increased by nineteen percent.

The risk of developing atrial fibrillation from higher resting heart rate was found, independent of blood pressure lowering medication, and other health factors that contribute to mortality.

Dr Peter M Okin (Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY) and associates conducted the study, showing that higher resting heart rate alone can put people at risk for atrial fibrillation, even when there are no other discernible causes, such as infection or other acute illness.

Dr. Okin suggests, "Physicians should take a step back and ask, why is this happening? Heart rates go up for a reason. What else is going on that's putting the patient at risk?"

The study was supported by Merck in an effort to see if controlling blood pressure could reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation. The study included patients with high blood pressure, treated with either Losartan or Atenolol.

Atrial Fib risk went up with rising heart rate in LIFE hypertension trial