Short-term heart rate variability--influence of gender and age in healthy subjects

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 30;10(3):e0118308. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118308. eCollection 2015.


In the recent years, short-term heart rate variability (HRV) describing complex variations of beat-to-beat interval series that are mainly controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been increasingly analyzed to assess the ANS activity in different diseases and under various conditions. In contrast to long-term HRV analysis, short-term investigations (<30 min) provide a test result almost immediately. Thus, short-term HRV analysis is suitable for ambulatory care, patient monitoring and all those applications where the result is urgently needed. In a previous study, we could show significant variations of 5-min HRV indices according to age in almost all domains (linear and nonlinear) in 1906 healthy subjects from the KORA S4 cohort. Based on the same group of subjects, general gender-related influences on HRV indices are to be determined in this study. Short-term 5-min HRV indices from linear time and frequency domain and from nonlinear methods (compression entropy, detrended fluctuation analysis, traditional and segmented Poincaré plot analysis, irreversibility analysis, symbolic dynamics, correlation and mutual information analysis) were determined from 782 females and 1124 males. First, we examined the gender differences in two age clusters (25-49 years and 50-74 years). Secondly, we investigated the gender-specific development of HRV indices in five age decade categories, namely for ages 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65-74 years. In this study, significant modifications of the indices according to gender could be obtained, especially in the frequency domain and correlation analyses. Furthermore, there were significant modifications according to age in nearly all of the domains. The gender differences disappeared within the last two age decades and the age dependencies disappeared in the last decade. To summarize gender and age influences need to be considered when performing HRV studies even if these influences only partly differ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors

Grant support

The KORA research platform (KORA, Cooperative Research in the Region of Augsburg) (where required: and the MONICA Augsburg studies) was initiated and financed by the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the State of Bavaria. This study was partly supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG-VO 505/8-2) and by grants from the Thuringian Ministry of Economy, Labor and Technology (TMBWAT/TAB 2011FE9092) and European Regional Development Fund EFRE. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.