Researchers identify new risk factor which may help predict heart disease

Mar 10, 2011

Heart health may have a new diagnostic test

A phenomenon called abnormal heart rate turbulence may be a strong predictor of risk for death by heart disease, according to the results of a study released recently by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers said in the announcement of their results that abnormal heart rate turbulence - defined as the heart reacting poorly to occasional mistimed contractions - is a better predictor of heart disease risk than C-reactive protein, and that apparently healthy people were "eight or nine times" more likely to die of heart disease than their peers if they had the abnormal rhythm.

One of the study's authors, Phyllis Stein, said the measurement could be significantly more helpful than present tests in determining heart disease risk.

"A heart rate turbulence measurement is insightful because it offers a sign of how well the autonomic, or subconscious, nervous system is functioning. If someone's heart doesn't react well to these uncoordinated beats that might mean it's not good at reacting to other issues like sudden stress or severe arrhythmias" she said.

The presence of such a condition - until a cure is found - could one day affect life insurance policy rates, if the science in this case is proved to be correct.

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