Increased Heart Rate Before Exercise Doubles Risk of Sudden Death

Increased heart rate before exercise doubles the risk of sudden cardiac death from heart attack later in life. Researchers from France find that taking a pulse before an exercise stress test is an easy way to intervene early to prevent sudden death when heart rate is increased in response to the mental stress of taking an exercise test. Professor Xavier Jouven, of the Hopital Européen Georges Pompidou (Paris, France), and colleagues found that men studied had double the risk of sudden death if their heart rate was increased before exercise.

The scientists suggest that clinicians should hone in on the value of intervening early for heart disease prevention. Increased heart rate before exercise seems to be a strong predictor of sudden death in the future, shown by the study that followed 7746 French male civil service employees for twenty-three years to find the association between increased heart rate before exercise and risk of sudden death later in life.

"People who showed a higher heart rate increase with mild mental stress could be considered for additional investigations and for tailored preventive strategies, aimed in the first place at reducing the probability of heart disease," says Professor Jouven. Reducing risk of sudden death from heart attack could save 200,000-400,000 deaths annually in the USA. Recognizing increased heart rate as a risk factor for sudden death can help physicians guide patients to reduce the chances of future heart attack.

Other study findings showed that men whose heart rate increased more during stress testing had a lower risk of sudden death, compared to those whose heart rate increased less.

The same results may not hold true for women. The researchers say more studies are needed to find out if increased heart rate before exercise also increases a woman's chances of sudden death from heart attack.

European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehp160.