Rapid decreases in resting heart rate from childhood to adulthood may indicate heart trouble ahead

While a slow resting heart rate is generally considered a good thing, investigators have some of the first evidence that if that rate decreases rapidly as children move into young adulthood, it’s an indicator that cardiovascular disease may be in their future.

Medical College of Georgia investigators report a significant association between a faster decrease in resting heart rate from childhood to adulthood and a larger left ventricle, the heart’s major pumping chamber, over a 21-year period in hundreds of individuals who were healthy at the start.

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The faster decrease in heart rate also was associated with a higher level of pressure inside the blood vessels of the body, which the heart has to pump against to get blood and oxygen out, they write in the journal Acta Cardiologica. The associations were generally stronger in Blacks.

“An unexplained drop over time is not a good thing,” says Dr. Gaston Kapuku, cardiovascular researcher at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute and the study’s corresponding author.

Looking at the resting heart rate at one moment in time, as opposed to how it trends from childhood to adulthood, is not a good thing either, Kapuku says.

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