A slower than average heartbeat does not increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.
A ‘normal’ heart beats anything between 60 and 100 times a minute in an adult at rest, but in bradycardia patients, it beats fewer than 50 times a minute. The condition can cause light-headedness, shortness of breath, fainting and chest pain.
Ajay Dharod, the study’s corresponding author, said: ‘For a large majority of people with a heart rate in the 40s or 50s who have no symptoms, the prognosis is very good. Our results should be reassuring for those diagnosed with asymptomatic bradycardia.’
The researchers, from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, say this is the first study of its kind to determine if a slow heart rate contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease.
They studied 6,733 volunteers between the ages 45 to 84 (with no cardiovascular disease history) for more than 10 years to monitor cardiovascular events and mortality rates.
The researchers found that a heart rate of less than 50 beats per minute was not associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease in participants regardless of whether they were taking drugs such as beta-blockers.
However, the study did show a potential association between bradycardia and higher mortality rates in individuals taking heart-rate modifying drugs.
Dharod said: ‘Bradycardia may be problematic in people who are taking medications that also slow their heart rate. Further research is needed to determine whether this association is causally linked to heart rate or to the use of these drugs.’
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9 February 2016 | 7 p.m. | IET London