A Slower heart rate may translate into longer life, reports the Harvard Heart Letter
Published: December, 2008
Your heart rate changes from minute to minute. It depends on whether you are standing up or lying down, moving around or sitting still, stressed or relaxed. When you have been at rest for a bit, the heartbeat settles down; this is your resting heart rate. Slowing it with exercise and stress reduction may help you enjoy more beats, 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. Why? 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 tantalising 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 your resting heart rate is high, you can do something about it: exercise more and reduce stress. When you exercise, your heart beats faster during the activity and for a short time afterwards. But exercising every day gradually slows the resting rate. The relaxation response, meditation, and other stress-busting techniques also lower heart rate over time.