Background: Endothelial dysfunction and autonomic nervous system imbalance are both risk markers of atherosclerotic vascular damage. The relationship between these 2 factors, however, has not been clarified concisely.
Methods and results: Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was measured in 47 patients with ischemic heart disease (IHD; mean age, 68.1±7.1 years) using an ultrasound semi-automatic measuring system (UNEXEF18G), and autonomic nervous system activity was evaluated by simultaneous measurements of heart rate variability. FMD was significantly correlated with standard deviation of normal-to-normal beats (r=0.33, P=0.022) and the power ratio of low-frequency power to high-frequency power (LF/HF; r=-0.38, P=0.0087). Furthermore, multiple regression analysis indicated that LF/HF was the most important predictor of the magnitude of FMD. This interaction was severely blunted by β-blockers and the presence of diabetes. Moreover, standardized FMD according to autonomic nervous system activity was a better predictor of future cardiovascular events than FMD. Subjects with cardiovascular events had a significantly smaller corrected FMD (event (+), 3.62±0.41; event (-), 5.10±2.35; P=0.001), and the higher corrected FMD was associated with longer event-free survival.
Conclusions: Autonomic nervous system activity is an important regulatory factor of FMD in subjects with IHD. Assessment of this interaction can help provide more accurate risk stratification of subjects with IHD.