Elevated resting heart rate is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. In a two-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in up to 181,171 individuals we identified 14 new loci associated with heart rate and confirmed associations with all seven previously established loci. Experimental down-regulation of gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster and Danio rerio identified 20 genes from 11 loci as relevant for heart rate regulation and highlight a role for genes involved in signal transmission, embryonic cardiac development, and the pathophysiology of dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital heart failure and/or sudden cardiac death. In addition, genetic susceptibility to increased heart rate is associated with altered cardiac conduction and reduced risk of sick sinus syndrome, and both heart rate increasing and decreasing variants associate with risk of atrial fibrillation. Our findings provide fresh insights into mechanisms regulating heart rate and identify novel targets that may be modifiable for therapeutic benefit.