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Slow Heart Rate not Tied to Higher Risk of Heart Disease, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 20, 2016 09:34 AM EST

Slow heart rate does not increase risk of heart disease, a new study is reporting.

For this study, the researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center set out to examine the relationship between heart disease risk and a condition known as bradycardia, which occurs when the heart beats less than 50 times per minute, which is slower than normal. Normal heartbeat is between 60 and 100 times per minute. Bradycardia can lead to light-headedness, fainting, shortness of breath or chest pain.

The team examined data on 6,733 participants who were enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The participants were between the ages of 45 and 84, and did not heart disease when they were recruited between 2000 and 2002. They were monitored for at least 10 years.

Based from an analysis of these participants, the researchers were able to conclude that having a heart rate of less than 50 beats per minute was not tied to a higher risk of heart disease. This link was also seen in participants who were on HR-modifying drugs. The team did find, however, that there was a higher death rate in people with bradycardia who were taking these HR-modifying drugs.

"For a large majority of people with a heart rate in the 40s or 50s who have no symptoms, the prognosis is very good," said Ajay Dharod, M.D., the corresponding author of the study, reported in the press release. "Our results should be reassuring for those diagnosed with asymptomatic bradycardia."

Dharod, who is also an instructor in internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, added, "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."

The study's findings were published in the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

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