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Int J Cardiol. 1997 Jul 25;60(2):121-31.

Abnormal passive head-up tilt test in subjects with symptoms of anxiety power spectral analysis study of heart rate and blood pressure.

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  • 1I Clinica Medica, Policlinico Umberto I, Universit√† La Sapienza, Rome,Italy.

Abstract

Previous reports that subjects with anxiety symptoms are at higher risk of sudden death may imply that anxiety induces stable sympathetic hyperactivity. To address this subject, in persons with and without anxiety symptoms, we evaluated autonomic nervous system activity by power spectral analysis of heart-rate and arterial-pressure variability at baseline (rest) and after sympathetic stress (tilt). The 117 subjects selected (56 men and 61 women, age range 23-87 years) were subdivided by questionnaire into three groups: 49 subjects (mean age 55.8+/-2.8 years) had no anxiety symptoms; 36 (mean age 56.8+/-3.6 years) had one anxiety symptom; and 32 (mean age 55.0+/-2.9 years) had two or more anxiety symptoms. Power spectral analysis recognizes three main components: high frequency (HF), chiefly reflecting vagal efferent activity; low frequency (LF), reflecting sympathetic activity; and very-low-frequency (VLF). The ratio of low- to high-frequency powers (LF:HF) of heart rate variability provides a measure of sympathovagal balance. Power spectral analysis showed that subjects with two or more anxiety symptoms had significantly lower resting values for all power spectral components of heart rate variability: total power (TP), VLF, LF, and HF than did symptomless controls (P<0.05). The highest anxiety-score groups also had a higher baseline LF:HF than the other two groups (P<0.05). Their resting LF:HF ratio correlated positively with anxiety symptom scores (r=0.72, P<0.0001). Tilt induced opposite results: the highest anxiety-score groups had a significantly lower LF:HF ratio; the ratio correlated inversely with their anxiety scores (r=-0.69; P<0.0001). Recordings of resting systolic arterial pressure variability showed that the group with two or more anxiety symptoms had significantly higher LF power (P<0.05) than symptomless controls. Our findings suggest that persons with high anxiety scores have baseline cardiac sympathetic hyperactivity. They also have low heart-rate variability, possibly explaining their susceptibility to sudden cardiac death.

PMID:
9226281
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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