There is a major risk factor for heart disease lurking in the shadows. Far too few adults are aware of this risk factor. But a report by Open Heart, a medical journal, reveals that a person’s resting heart rate must be taken into account when projecting a person’s heart health.

Even if a person is eating right and exercising a few times a week, they should pay attention to their own resting heart rate in order to protect themselves from getting heart disease. The study revealed that the risk of developing heart disease within 11 years is doubled for men aged 50-59 whose heart rate is 75 bpm or above. That is a startling number.

The unique study was conducted in Sweden beginning in 1993 and concluding in 2014. Nearly 800 men were tracked. All of the participants were born in Gothenberg, Sweden, in 1943.

The men were divided into groups determined by their resting heart rates. Those with beats per minute under 55 were placed into one group. The next group consisted of men whose bpm ranged from 56 to 65. The third group’s bpm ranged from 66 to 75. Finally, the fourth group was made up of men with resting heart rates greater than 75 beats per minute.

The research, conducted over 21 years, also showed that men whose resting heart rates remained stable while in their 50’s were at a decreased risk of developing heart disease before they turn 71. In fact, their risks dropped 44% over those whose resting heart rates rose during that same period.

Stunningly, each increase in beats per minute while in their 50’s resulted in a 3% greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the next 11 years.

There are several factors that influence resting heart rates. Genes are a major contributor to the heart rate of an individual. However, healthy living made a significant difference in those being studied. Therefore, eating the right foods and staying active through exercise help bring heart rates down during rest.

One of the notable aspects of the study is that even though 50 bpm to 100 bpm is in the normal bpm range, the higher end of normal still increases the risk of heart disease significantly.