A team of researchers found more than 60 genetic variants associated with resting heart rate, a known predictor of overall mortality.
Scientists from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands led the study published in the journal Nature Genetics.
The researchers noted that while the effect of these genetic variants individually was small, taken together they explained as much as 2.5 percent of the variance in resting heart rate. A genetically predicted increase in heart rate is associated with shorter life expectancy, according to the study.
“It is even more interesting to look at life-expectancy,” said Ruben Eppinga, a study co-author. “This study also suggested that an increase in heart rate of five beats per minute reduces life expectancy by 2.9 years in men and 2.6 years in women.”
The findings offer evidence that there are shared genetic influences on resting heart rate and on all causes of mortality, according to the cardiologist Pim van der Harst, who led the study.
In conducting the genome-wide association study for this research, the scientists used data from more than 134,000 people who participated in the UK Biobank. Then they were able to replicate their findings by looking at four other data sets that included a total of more than 130,000 individuals’ data, inclusive of 51,000 23andMe customers who consented to participate in research.
“This work highlights the unprecedented opportunity provided by large-scale projects such as UK Biobank, the 100,000 Genomes Project, and the Precision Medicine Initiative to discover novel genetic associations and to study links with outcomes and mortality,” the researchers said.
The researchers also found an association between a genetically higher resting heart rate and a person having a higher body mass index, higher blood pressure and diabetes. The researchers suggest that the association between resting heart rate and mortality may be influenced by genes or gene regions involved in cardiac development and structure, but more needs to be done to study the underlying biology.
Find the study in the journal Nature Genetics.