Could your DNA reveal your Heart Rate? Upload raw DNA data to learn more about yourself and genomics science.
A 2018 study of found that our heart rate during and after exercise is partly a function of our genetics. This new line of research into the hereditary basis of heart rate promises to help physicians identify individuals with an impaired heart rate and/or a risk of heart disease mortality.
The answer is: yes, in part. The elevated heart rate of an individual during exercise has long been used as a metric of overall cardiovascular health.
The ambitious 2018 study, which included over 58,000 individuals, was able to establish a correlation between exercise heart rate and genetic markers. Researchers found that the difference in heart rate response to exercise was as much as 3.15 beats per minute, corrected for other factors. This provided an explanation as to why it is possible for two very similar individuals to consistently experience different elevated heart rates with the same exercise.
The answer is also: yes, in part.
Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) measures how quickly one’s heart returns to normal after exercise. HRR is considered important as a measure of heart health because it shows how efficient the cardiovascular system is at returning to normal after a period of intense load (exercise). Researchers found that HRR can by as much as 10.4 beats per minute, corrected for other factors. The study was also able to correlate the elevated heart rate and HRR of specific individuals, further establishing that some variation in heart rate under both conditions is accounted for by individual genetics.
Heart rate is an important indicator for overall health, as cardiovascular diseases remain the top cause of death globally. We have long-known that heart rate varies with athleticism, physical conditioning and lifestyle factors (like obesity). However, the genetic link has only been established in recent years. The 2018 study focused on 20 gene loci. With further study, the genes responsible for variations in heart rate among individuals will be better understood. This line of research will prove helpful in the future to individuals and physicians monitoring heart rate as an indication of cardiovascular health. Clinicians will need to factor in a tolerance for genetic variation in their assessment of an individual’s cardiovascular health.
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