Assessment of the primary effect of aging on heart rate variability in humans

Clin Auton Res. 2000 Jun;10(3):123-30. doi: 10.1007/BF02278016.


Beat-to-beat heart rate variability (HRV), reflecting cardiac autonomic control mechanisms, is known to change with age. However, the degree to which this change is mediated by aging per se or by physiologic changes characteristic of normative aging is still unclear. This study was designed to examine the association of aerobic fitness, body habitus or obesity, and blood pressure with age-related changes in HRV. Resting HRV data was recorded from 373 healthy subjects (124 men, 249 women; age range, 16-69 y) and analyzed by coarse-graining spectral analysis to decompose the total spectral power into its harmonic and fractal components. The low- and high-frequency (LF, 0.0-0.15 Hz; HF, >0.15 Hz) harmonic components were calculated from the former, whereas the latter was used to calculate the integrated power (FR) and the spectral exponent , beta, which were, in turn, used to evaluate the overall complexity of HRV. Factor analysis was performed to test whether potentially age-related changes in the components of HRV might be observed secondarily through other variables affecting HRV. Significant (p <0.05) age-related changes in the harmonic (HF and LF) and fractal (FR and beta) components of HRV were generally consistent with those described in the literature. In addition, factor analysis showed that there was a unique common factor that primarily explained correlations among age, HF, and beta (p <0.05) without the contributions from LF, FR, aerobic fitness, body habitus or obesity, and blood pressure. It was concluded that, in this population-based sample, age-related changes in HF and beta, both of which reflect vagal modulation of heart rate, were primarily mediated by aging per se and not by physiologic changes characteristic of normative aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Fractals
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Fitness
  • Posture
  • Reference Values