Host and environmental determinants of heart rate and heart rate variability in four European populations

J Hypertens. 2003 Mar;21(3):525-35. doi: 10.1097/00004872-200303000-00018.


Objective: In a population-based sample of nuclear families recruited in the framework of the European Project on Genes in Hypertension (EPOGH), we investigated the association between heart rate (HR) and its variability (HRV), and gender, age, posture, breathing frequency, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, family history of hypertension and various lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol and coffee consumption and physical activity.

Methods: RR interval and respiration were registered in the supine and standing positions (15 min each) in 1208 subjects in Bucharest (Romania, n= 267), Cracow (Poland, n= 323), Mirano (Italy, n= 323) and Novosibirsk (Russian Federation, n= 295). After exclusion of 199 participants on antihypertensive treatment and/or patients with diabetes mellitus (n= 40) or myocardial infarction (n= 4), 993 subjects were eligible for analysis. We evaluated 858 participants with high-quality recordings. Using fast Fourier transform, we decomposed HRV into low-frequency (LF: 0.04-0.15 Hz) and high-frequency (HF: 0.15-0.40 Hz) components, which were expressed in normalized units.

Results: Mean values were 35.3 years for age, 24.3 kg/m for body mass index (BMI) and 121.0/77.2 mmHg for blood pressure. The group included 462 (53.8%) women. Across four centres, HR and HRV were similarly and independently associated with gender, age and postural position (P <0.001). In the supine position, HR was higher in women than men (67.2 versus 63.7 bpm). Men had higher normalized LF power than women (48.8 versus 41.5), but lower HF power (40.6 versus 47.4). The normalized HF power decreased with age (r = -0.43), whereas LF power increased (r = 0.32). On standing, HR increased (83.3 versus 65.6 bpm), normalized HF power declined (19.2 versus 44.3) and LF power increased (67.4 versus 44.9). The independent effects of respiration frequency, systolic blood pressure, family history of hypertension, body mass index and lifestyle factors on HRV differed between populations, and explained no more than 8% of the total variance.

Conclusions: Across four European populations, gender, age and posture were consistent and independent correlates of HR and HRV. Lifestyle seems to have small but varying influences on HR and/or HRV, probably depending on the environmental and cultural background of the population under study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Posture
  • Respiration
  • Sex Characteristics