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J Intern Med. 1999 Jan;245(1):57-61.

Decreased heart rate variability in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus is related to arterial wall stiffness.

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Karolinska Institute, Department of Emergency and Cardiovascular Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



Low heart rate variability (HRV) is, in several patient groups, related to poor prognosis. The underlying mechanisms are still unclear. The aim was to study if there is a relationship between HRV, which is a measure of baroreceptor function, and atherosclerosis.


The relationship between heart rate variability and carotid arterial wall stiffness was studied in subjects with type 1 diabetes mellitus in which autonomic dysfunction and early atherosclerosis are common. HRV was assessed from power spectral analysis of 24-h Holter recordings and arterial wall stiffness was assessed from an ultrasound study of the right common carotid artery.


A university hospital.


Fifty-nine patients (41 +/- 8 years) from the Stockholm Diabetes Intervention Study (SDIS) were investigated. These patients were randomized to intensified conventional treatment or standard treatment approximately 12 years before this study.


Patients with stiffer arteries had lower HRV in all spectral bands (r = -0.32 to -0.40, P = 0.06-0.001). This relation remained on correcting for age. All spectral parameters of HRV correlated with the mean HbA1c from 10 years of study (r = -0.37 to -0.40, P = 0.004-0.001).


In patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, heart rate variability and arterial wall stiffness are related to each other. The results suggests that the autonomic nervous system could be a link between diabetes and vascular disease.

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