Elevated heart rate and cardiovascular outcomes in patients with coronary artery disease: clinical evidence and pathophysiological mechanisms.
ABSTRACT There is an established body of evidence from epidemiological studies which indicates that an elevated resting heart rate is independently associated with atherosclerosis and increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, in both the general population and in patients with established cardiovascular disease. Clinical trial data suggest that in patients with coronary artery disease, an elevated heart rate identifies those at increased risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes, and that lowering of heart rate may reduce major cardiovascular events in patients with an elevated heart rate and symptom-limiting angina. These results suggest that an increased heart rate may have an adverse impact on the atherosclerotic process and increase the risk of a cardiovascular event in patients with coronary artery disease. The precise pathophysiological mechanisms that link heart rate and cardiovascular outcomes have yet to be defined. Possibilities may include indirect mechanisms related to autonomic dysregulation and those due to an increase in heart rate per se, which can increase the ischaemic burden and exert local haemodynamic forces that can adversely impact on the endothelium and arterial wall. For these reasons, heart rate should be considered as a therapeutic target in the treatment of patients with coronary artery disease.