Rising heart beat during mental stress could be fatal

May 2nd, 2009 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 2 (IANS) Men whose heart beat shot up during mild mental stress, just before an exercise test, faced twice the risk of dying of a sudden heart attack later in life than men whose heart rate did not increase as much.
The study is the first to discover this association. Since taking a patient’s pulse is an easy, no cost alternative, it suggests a way of identifying people who may be at increased risk.

Xavier Jouven, professor at the Hopital Europeen Georges Pompidou (Paris) who led the research, said the findings have significant clinical implications.

“People who showed a higher heart rate increase with mild mental stress could be considered for additional investigations and for tailored preventive strategies, aimed in the first place at reducing the probability of heart disease,” he said.

Sudden death from heart attack is a major public health problem, accounting for between 2,00,000 to 4,00,000 deaths each year in the US alone (population 306 million).

In the 27 European Union countries it accounts for about 4,86,000 deaths in a population of 497 million. Less than five percent of people suffering a heart attack are successfully resuscitated.

So being able to identify early those who are at greatest risk, in a general and apparently healthy population would be a big step forward in preventing some of these deaths.

Jouven and colleagues examined data from the Paris Prospective Study of 7,746 Frenchmen, aged 42-53. The participants were policemen.

The men were subjected to examinations between 1967-1972, including electrocardiograms. Their resting heart rate was measured, and then it was measured again when they mounted a bike, just before the bicycle exercise test.

This was the time when the researchers considered the men to be under mild mental stress in preparation for the exercise stress test. Their heart rate was measured during the exercise and afterwards during the recovery period, said a Hopital Europeen release.

During an average 23 year follow-up there were 1,516 deaths including 81 sudden deaths due to a heart attack. The risk of sudden death rose with an increase in heart rate during mild mental stress.

These findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

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