Power spectral analysis of heart rate in subjects over a hundred years old

Int J Cardiol. 1998 Jan 5;63(1):53-61. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5273(97)00282-9.


Altered autonomic regulation of cardiac function may contribute to the onset of cardiovascular disease and provide a substrate for malignant ventricular arrhythmias. This study was designed to assess cardiovascular neuroautonomic status in healthy subjects with short-term power spectral analysis of heart rate variability, including a group over 100 years of age, to identify a neuroautonomic pattern that could help to protect ultra-centenarians against cardiovascular disease. One hundred and twelve subjects (22 men and 90 women, age range 20 to 107 years) were subdivided into five age groups: <40 years (N=26, mean age 30.6+/-0.9); 41 to 60 years (N=27, mean age 51.9+/-1.2); 61 to 80 years (N=37, mean age 70.3+/-1.1); 81 to 100 (N=10, mean age 85.2+/-0.8) and older than 101 years (N=13, mean age: 103.6+/-0.6). Power spectral analysis with autoregressive algorithm provides two indexes of autonomic activity: a low-frequency component oscillating around 0.10 Hz, mainly reflecting sympathetic activity and a high-frequency component around 0.30 Hz, reflecting parasympathetic activity. Subjects 40 years of age or younger had significantly higher spectral high-frequency power values expressed in logarithmic form than the other age groups (P<0.05), the age group from 41 to 100 years had values similar to those of the other groups. However, the age group over 101 years had significantly higher values than the group from 81 to 100 years (P<0.05). Low-frequency spectral density expressed in logarithmic form and in normalized units decreased with age (P<0.0001). These data confirm an age-related decline in sympathetic activity. Compared with elderly subjects from 81 to 100 years of age ultra-centenarians have significantly higher spectral parasympathetic indexes. Parasympathetic predominance may be the neuroautonomic feature that helps to protect ultra-centenarians against cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart / innervation
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged