Resting heart rate predicts incident myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, ischaemic stroke and death in the general population: the Tromsø Study

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Elevated resting heart rate (RHR) increases risk of death overall, but a comprehensive picture of the associations between RHR, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality events has not yet been presented. We aimed to investigate the effect of RHR on the risk of 5 cardiovascular events: incident myocardial infarction (MI), incident atrial fibrillation (AF), incident ischaemic stroke, total death and cardiovascular death in a general population from Norway.


We followed 24 489 men and women from the Tromsø Study 1994–1995, a population-based cohort study, for 18 years, and analysed the association between RHR and the investigated cardiovascular events. Sex-specific Cox regression with time-dependent covariates was applied with the best-fitting fractional polynomials of RHR.


Among men, an independent positive relationship was observed for MI and AF (adjusted HR for AF per 20 bpm increase=1.14; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.27). In women, the corresponding HR for MI was 1.23 (1.09 to 1.40). A J-shaped association was observed for ischaemic stroke in women when compared with a RHR of 70 bpm (HR for 50 bpm=1.31; 0.90 to 1.90; HR for 100 bpm=1.32; 1.04 to 1.69). Total and cardiovascular death showed a strong positive association with RHR in men. In women, the pattern for total death was similar.


RHR is an independent risk factor for several cardiovascular events. A novel finding is the positive association between RHR and AF in men and the sex difference in association with ischaemic stroke.

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