New research suggests that a rapid resting heart rate could be an indicator of early death, even in people without the usual risk factors for heart disease.
“Higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular death,” said lead researcher Dr. Dongfeng Zhang, of the department of epidemiology at the Medical College of Qingdao University in Shandong, China. 
According to the American Heart Association, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. When Zhang and his colleagues analyzed 46 studies involving more than 2 million patients, they found that those with a resting heart rate of more than 80 beats per minute had a 45% greater risk of death from any cause, while people with a resting heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute had a 21% greater risk. 
“Results from this meta-analysis suggest the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality increased by nine percent for every 10 beats/minute increment of resting heart rate,” Zhang said.
“The risk of all-cause mortality increased significantly with increasing resting heart rate, but a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed at 90 beats/minute,” the researcher added.
Zhang stressed that the overall risk of someone dying from a rapid heartbeat is small and that the study doesn’t prove that heart rate actually caused premature deaths; it merely showed an association.
This is not the first study to suggest that an elevated resting heart rate could signal a greater risk of early death, and Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School says that experts have linked fast heartbeat, or tachycardia, with heart disease, as well. Komaroff says a resting heart rate of 60-70 beats per minute generally reflects better fitness, and that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and early death. 
But Zhang said it’s unclear whether higher heart rate is a marker of poor fitness or heart disease. What researchers want to figure out is whether an elevated heart rate is a modifiable risk factor for premature death.
What we do know is that a rapid heartbeat can impact the body in ways that may negatively affect the heart. Zheng explained that resting heart rate reflects autonomic nervous system activity and hormone levels, in addition to heart fitness. Increased activity of the autonomic nervous system and increased hormone levels can trigger the start and progression of heart disease.
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.