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Rapid Heart Rate Suggests a 59% Higher Risk of Diabetes

May 29, 2015

A potential new pre-clinical marker to determine a patient’s risk for diabetes…

Seven previous studies totaling nearly 100,000 patients found a positive association between those with a rapid heart rate and an increased risk of diabetes as compared to individuals with slow heart rates.

Researchers found this same association in a four year study of 73,357 Chinese adults. They also found that faster heart rates were associated with impaired fasting glucose levels.

“We found participants with faster heart rates, suggesting lower automatic function, had increased risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes, and conversion from prediabetes to diabetes. Each additional 10 beats per minute was associated with a 23% increased risk of diabetes, similar to the effect of a 3kg/m2 increase in BMI,” said Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State university and study senior author.

Individuals with diabetes during the first glucose testing from 2006-2007 were excluded from the study. All participants were employed by a coal mining company located in China and researchers only used a single measure of fasting blood glucose to determine their diagnosis for diabetes or prediabetes. Heart rates were measured by researchers in a baseline exam after five minutes of rest and recorded using a 12-lead EKG with participants lying flat on their backs.

During the four year follow-up, 17,463 pre-diabetic and 4,649 diabetic cases were identified with glucose levels being examined every two years during the study. Xiang Gao suggested that after combining their research with the previous studies, fast heart rates had a 59% increased risk of diabetes when comparing individuals with slow heart rates.

Although there may be a positive association in previous studies as well as the current study, there was no indication as to how the previous studies were conducted. Further research needs to be done to further examine the association between rapid heart rate and risk of diabetes and it would need to be based off of more than a single blood glucose measure. Ages, nutritional status and comorbidities were not thoroughly taken into account and therefore, individuals with different demographics should be considered. Overall, however, this study and those before it do suggest a positive association.

Practice Pearls:

  • Research suggests a positive association in individuals with a rapid heart rate and an increased risk of diabetes.
  • Rapid heart rates do not cause diabetes, but may be used as a pre-clinical marker.
  • Each additional 10 bpm was associated with a 23% increase in the risk of diabetes as compared to those with slow heart rates.

Xiang Gao. International Journal of Epidemiology. 22 May 2015 “Faster Heart Rate Linked to Diabetes Risk.”