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DR SCOTT'S SURGERY.

Sometimes I am asked 'what is a normal pulse rate?' As ever it all depends on where you are, who you are, and what you are doing.

Mine, right now, sitting at a laptop is 66, which is about average. If I went running 10 miles every day it would beat much faster during the run (assuming it did not stop altogether!) but my resting pulse would become slower as I became fitter.

Small children have faster pulses than large adults. Stressful situations will also cause the heart to beat faster.

It has been clearly demonstrated that getting into a bad mood in busy traffic can bring on an angina attack in a patient who has suffered a recent heart attack. This is due to the rapid pulse that 'the obnoxious prat in the sports car' has given him. Beta blocker drugs such as atenolol treat angina, at least in part, by slowing your heart rate.

A slow heart beat is important because the blood supply to the heart muscle delivers most of its oxygen and nutrients between beats, when the heart rests for a split second. The longer the gap between beats, the better the supply it gets and the less likely it is to suffer strain.

I was at a meeting recently where the effect of pulse rate on life expectancy was discussed. We doctors do bang on about smoking, high cholesterol and raised blood pressure and rightly so because these things can kill. We have paid less attention to carefully measuring pulse rate. I predict this will change over the next few years as the importance of the resting pulse becomes more clearly understood. A recent medical trial of French policeman discovered that if a resting pulse can be reduced by four beats a minute, the chances of dying in the next 10 years drops by 14%. If the pulse rate increases by a similar amount, risk of death in the next 10 years goes up by almost a fifth.

Another trial showed that a group of patients with heart failure and a rapid resting pulse benefited from a drug called Ivabradine. Although there is no evidence to show that everyone with a rapid pulse would be helped by this, we do know that doctors need to pay more attention to pulse rates in patients with heart disease. Slowing your own pulse will make you live longer, the easiest way to achieve this is to exercise a little more, but possibly smiling at the guy in the BMW who just carved you up might help too!
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2009
Words:429
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