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Faster heart rate could be 'novel' risk factor for diabetes

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Measuring heart rate could identify individuals with a higher future risk of diabetes, according to an international team of researchers.

They found an association between resting heart rate and diabetes in a four-year study of 73,357 Chinese adults.

The researchers measured heart rates during a baseline exam in 2006-07. After a five minute rest, they recorded heart rates using a 12-lead electrocardiogram with participants lying on their backs.

“Faster heart rate could be a novel pre-clinical marker or risk factor for diabetes”

Xiang Gao

During a four-year follow-up period, the researchers identified 4,649 diabetes cases. They examined glucose every two years, beginning in 2006.

The researchers observed that faster heart rates were positively associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes.

They also found that faster heart rates were associated with impaired fasting glucose levels and a conversion from impaired fasting glucose levels to diabetes among the same population.

Senior study author Xiang Gao, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University, said: “We found participants with faster heart rates, suggesting lower automatic function, had increased risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes, and conversion from pre-diabetes to diabetes.

“Each additional 10 beats per minute was associated with 23% increased risk of diabetes, similar to the effects of a 3kg per meter square increase in body mass index,” he said.

He added: “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 fast heart rate had 59% increased risk of diabetes relative to those with slow heart rate.”

“This suggests that faster heart rate could be a novel pre-clinical marker or risk factor for diabetes,” said Dr Gao.

The study findings have been published the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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