May 28, 2015
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Faster heart rate may indicate high risk for developing diabetes

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A faster resting heart rate was associated with a higher risk for both impaired fasting glucose and diabetes, with a particularly strong association in younger adults, according to research in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

In a large prospective study of Chinese adults, in addition to a meta-analysis of seven published studies, researchers found that a faster resting heart rate also indicated an increased risk for adults with prediabetes going on to develop diabetes.

“Together, this study strongly supports faster resting heart rate as an independent risk factor for incident diabetes and IFG, and suggests that this relationship may be common to developing and developed countries, as well as Asian and non-Asian populations,” the researchers wrote.

Liang Wang, MD, MPH, DrPH, of the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University, and colleagues at other institutions analyzed data from 73,357 Chinese adults (57,719 men) participating in the Kailuan study, a prospective cohort study that included employees of the Kailuan Coal Company in northern China between 2006 and 2010. Researchers measured heart rate via electrocardiogram at baseline, as well as fasting blood glucose at baseline, in 2008 and in 2010. Researchers divided participants into five categories based on resting heart rate quintiles.

Within the cohort, 4,649 participants developed diabetes and 17,463 participants developed prediabetes during follow-up. After adjustment for age, smoking and blood concentrations of glucose and triglycerides, the HR for the highest vs. the lowest quintile of resting heart rate was 1.73 (95% CI, 1.57-1.91). Each 10 beats per minute increase in heart rate was associated with a 23% increased diabetes risk (95% CI, 19-27) comparable with the risk related to 3 kg/m² increase in BMI, according to researchers.

Among participants with a normal fasting glucose at baseline, a faster heart rate also was associated with a higher risk for developing IFG (HR = 1.33; 95% CI, 1.27-1.39). Among participants who already had IFG, researchers also saw an association between heart rate and the risk for developing diabetes (HR = 1.4; 95% CI, 1.24-1.57).

The association between heart rate and diabetes or IFG was stronger among adults younger than 50 years. The adjusted HR for each 10 beats per minute was 1.27 for diabetes (95% CI, 1.2-1.34) and 1.15 for IFG (95% CI, 1.12-1.18).

Participants with a faster resting heart rate also were more likely to be current smokers and have hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia, according to researchers.

A meta-analysis of seven published studies and the current results confirmed the association between resting heart rate and diabetes risk, study researcher Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, director of the nutritional epidemiology lab at Penn State University, said in a press release.

“We further combined our results with those of seven previously published studies including 97,653 men and women in total, on the same topic, and we found a similar association - individuals with a fast heart rate had a 59% increased risk of diabetes relative to those with a slow heart rate,” Gao said. “This suggests that faster heart rate could be a novel pre-clinical marker or risk factor for diabetes.” - by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.