News | December 08, 2008

Slower Heart Rate May Translate into Longer Life

December 9, 2008 - Slowing heart rate with exercise and stress reduction may help extend life, reports the December 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Sixty years ago, researchers showed that men with fast resting heart rates were more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with slower rates. Since then, a high resting heart rate has been linked to atherosclerosis, sudden death, and an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The article states each pulse of blood puts a mild stress on artery walls. More beats per minute means more stress. A faster heartbeat also gives the coronary arteries less time to fill with blood. This can lead to an imbalance between heart cells’ demand for oxygen and the heart’s ability to provide it.

Resting heart rate seems to be a common denominator for various types of heart disease. A tantalizing possibility is that lowering your heart rate could help protect you from heart disease and may even let your heart beat for longer.

The Harvard Heart Letter notes that if a resting heart rate is high, patients can do something about it by exercising more and reducing stress. Exercising every day gradually slows the resting rate. The relaxation response, meditation, and other stress-busting techniques also lower heart rate over time.

For more information: www.health.harvard.edu/heart

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