For the average adult, a normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Chances are the lower it is, the better your cardiovascular fitness, and the more efficient your heart works. On the other hand, a new meta-analysis, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has found a higher-than-average resting heart rate can lead to an increased risk of death from all causes, not just those related to your heart.

Researchers from the Medical College of Qingdao University in Shandong, China wanted to see if there was any correlation between a person’s resting heart rate, death from any cause, and death from heart disease. "The association of resting heart rate with risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality is independent of traditional risk factors of cardiovascular disease, suggesting that resting heart rate is a predictor of mortality in the general population," they wrote.

To determine this, the researchers looked at 46 studies that monitored resting heart rate, age, and cause of death. Of these, 40 involved more than one million patients, 78,349 of whom died from any cause, and 29 consisted of more than 800,000 patients, 25,800 of whom died from cardiovascular disease. After analyzing the data, the researchers found a person’s chance of death from any cause increased 9 percent for every additional 10 beats per minute, while risk of death from cardiovascular disease increased 8 percent for every additional 10 beats per minute.

The researchers found that the higher a person’s heartbeat per minute, the greater their chance of death became. Those who had a resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute, for example, were found to have a nearly 45 percent increased risk of death from any cause, while those who had a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute were found to have only a 21 percent higher risk.

"The available evidence does not fully establish resting heart rate as a risk factor, but there is no doubt that elevated resting heart rate serves as a marker of poor health status," co-author Dr. Dongfeng Zhang said in a press release. "Our results highlight that people should pay more attention to their resting heart rate for their health, and also indicate the potential importance of physical activity to lower resting heart rate."

Although the researchers wrote that a high resting heart rate was "associated with risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors," they noted that their analysis had a few limitations. An example: They found there were different ways to measure a resting heart rate — measuring at night provided a more accurate measure of beats per minute than during the day due to lower levels of physical or mental activity. They also found some patients started taking heart rate-lowering medications between their first visits and follow-ups.

Either way, it’s important to keep your heart rate at a relatively normal level. Cardiovascular exercise, like brisk walking, jogging or biking, can help. So can managing stress levels through either music listening or meditation. If none of these activities work, you might want to try a coloring book.

Source: Zhang, D, et al. Resting heart rate and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population: a meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2015.