Effects of cardiac rehabilitation and beta-blocker therapy on heart rate variability after first acute myocardial infarction

Am J Cardiol. 1998 Apr 1;81(7):834-40. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(98)00021-6.


After acute myocardial infarction (AMI), rehabilitation with physical training increases parasympathetic tone. It is unknown whether such a favorable effect of exercise on the sympathovagal balance interacts with effects of other widespread therapies, such as beta blockers. In 53 patients after a first, uncomplicated AMI, we studied the combined short- and long-term influence on heart rate variability (HRV) of rehabilitation and beta blockade. Patients were divided into 3 groups: group 1 (n = 19) underwent rehabilitation with physical training; group 2 (n = 20) was taking beta blockers and underwent rehabilitation; group 3 (n = 14) was taking beta blockers and did not enter the rehabilitation program for logistic reasons. Patients were similar as to age, site of infarction, ejection fraction, left ventricular diameter, and baseline stress test duration. Measures of HRV (obtained from a 15-minute resting electrocardiogram) were the standard deviation of the mean RR interval (RRSD), the mean squared successive differences (MSSD), the percent of RR intervals differing >50 ms from the preceding one (pNN50), the low-(LF) and high-(HF) frequency components of the autoregressive power spectrum of the RR intervals and their ratio (LF/HF). Four weeks after AMI, there was less sympathetic predominance in groups 2 and 3 (i.e., patients taking beta blockers [p <0.05]). Rehabilitation modified HRV in groups 1 and 2 (p <0.05), with signs of increased parasympathetic tone (group 1: MSSD +25%, pNN50 +69%, LF/HF -40%; group 2: MSSD +41%, pNN50 +48%, LF/HF -39%). These changes persisted in the long term. In group 3, HRV was unchanged over time. Hence, after AMI, the effects of rehabilitation and beta blockers on HRV are not redundant: their association induces a more favorable sympathovagal balance, accelerating the recovery of a normal autonomic profile.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / drug therapy*
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / rehabilitation*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Time Factors


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists