Vitals like blood pressure, respiration rate, height, weight and heart rate are pretty boring and mundane.
They give us some general ideas about the overall health of the patient, but I know that I personally don’t think of them as having direct links to lab values. Of course, we can make some general assumptions that are usually correct when we look at weight for height and blood pressure.
But I’ve never really given heart rate much of a second thought other than an indicator of a patient’s cardiovascular fitness levels. Turns out, this may be a very shortsighted view. In this particular article, researchers looked at the relationship between resting heart rate and markers of inflammation in the blood. Here’s the details:
- Inflammation was measured using hs CRP, IL-6, and fibrinogen.
- Average age was 62 years.
- Average resting heart rate was 63 beats/min.
- Higher heart rate at rest was linked to higher levels of all 3 inflammatory markers.
- Results were similar among all of the racial / ethnic groups in the study.
At first glance, this may not seem all that important, but consider a few things.
First off, heart rate is something we can all check with no training and at a moment’s notice. As I sit here typing this, mine is 70 BPM, which may mean I’ve got some work to do (I’ve recently added short-burst training on a treadmill along with my elliptical). Or, at the very least, make sure I follow an otherwise very heart-friendly lifestyle (which I do).
Excess inflammation, no matter how you slice it, is very bad for our health. Poor vascular health tops the list (heart disease, stroke, dementia), but pretty much every other chronic disease is affected in a bad way by inflammation.
When it comes to heart rate, resting heart rate is important, but equally important is how long it takes your heart rate to return to normal after a bout of exercise. This is referred to as the heart rate recovery, or HRR. In general, faster HRR is a good sign of cardiovascular health and conditoning. Luckily, short-burst aerobic activity goes a long way towards improving HRR.