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Slower heart rate may translate into longer life, reports the Harvard Heart Letter

December 1, 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.

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