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In a large general French population of 100 000 subjects, the relationship of resting heart rate with age, gender, demographic parameters, physical activity and classical risk factors was evaluated.A population composed of all the subjects who had a free health check-up at the IPC Centre between 1992 and 1995 (62 353 men and 35 371 women) was analysed. Heart rate was considered either as a continuous parameter or as a qualitative parameter. The study population was divided into four heart rate classes: < 65, 65-74, 75-84 and ≥ 85 beats/min.Women had significantly higher heart rate values than men, and this gender difference was constant in the different age groups. In both genders, heart rate was positively associated with blood pressure, triglycerides, glycaemia and physical inactivity, and negatively with body height. Heart rate was also correlated with total cholesterol but only in men. The only factor having opposite effects on heart rate in men and women was tobacco smoking (positive in men and negative in women). Among untreated hypertensive men, 21.3% had a heart rate ≥ 85 beats/min compared with only 4.0% among normotensive men. In women, these percentages were 23.6 and 7.6%, respectively. Subjects with untreated mild hypertension or uncontrolled treated hypertension also showed increased rates of tachycardia compared to normotensives.The present analysis, performed in a large French population, shows that high heart rate is associated with several other risk factors, especially hypertension, suggesting that tachycardic subjects have a high risk profile.