A high resting heart rate in middle age may forewarn of diabetes when the person gets older, a new study suggests. Researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago examined data on the heart rate of 14,992 people collected between 1967 and 1973. The subjects were 35-64 years old, and none had diabetes. The investigators used Medicare records and national mortality data to see how many developed diabetes from 1984 to 2002.

During that period, 2.4% of the subjects who died had some mention of diabetes on their death certificate. Another 12.5% had filed diabetes-related hospital claims. The highest odds of having diabetes were found in the top quartile of heart rate (84 or more beats per minute, or bpm) compared with those in the lowest (68 bpm). Diabetes-related death was most likely to occur in those who had developed a high heart rate in middle age—35-49 years.

“Our findings of a modest association between higher heart rate and diabetes diagnosis or mortality are consistent with prior research,” stated the investigators (Diabetes Care. 2008; 31:335-339). “The association is plausible because heart rate is a marker of both autonomic nervous system function and cardiorespiratory fitness, both of which are associated with the development of diabetes.”

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