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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1999 Aug;19(8):1979-85.

Heart rate variability and progression of coronary atherosclerosis.

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Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine and Biocenter of Oulu, University of Oulu, Finland.


Low heart rate (HR) variability is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, but the causes and mechanisms of this association are not well known. This prospective study was designed to test the hypothesis that reduced HR variability is related to progression of coronary atherosclerosis. Average HR and HR variability were analyzed in 12-hour ambulatory ECG recordings from 265 qualified patients participating in a multicenter study to evaluate the angiographic progression of coronary artery disease in patients with prior coronary artery bypass surgery and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations (<1.1 mmol/L). Participants were randomized to receive a placebo or gemfibrozil therapy. The progression of coronary atherosclerosis was estimated by quantitative, computer-assisted analysis of coronary artery stenoses from the baseline angiograms and from repeated angiograms performed an average of 32 months later. The progression of focal coronary atherosclerosis of the patients randomized to placebo therapy was more marked in the tertile with the lowest standard deviation of all normal to normal R-R intervals (SDNN, 74+/-13 ms; mean decrease in the per-patient minimum luminal diameter -0.17 mm; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.23 to -0.12 mm) than in the middle tertile (SDNN, 107+/-7 ms; mean decrease -0.05 mm; 95% CI, -0.08 to -0.01 mm) or highest tertile (SDNN, 145+/-25 ms; mean change 0.01 mm; 95% CI, -0. 04 to 0.02 mm) (P<0.001 between the tertiles). This association was abolished by gemfibrozil. SDNN was lower (P<0.001) and minimum HR was faster (P<0.01) in the patients with marked progression than in those with regression of focal coronary atherosclerosis. In multiple regression analysis including HR variability, minimum HR, demographic and clinical variables, smoking, blood pressure, glucose, lipid measurements and lipid-modifying therapy, progression of focal coronary atherosclerosis was independently predicted by the SDNN (beta=0.24; P=0.0001). Low HR variability analyzed from ambulatory ECG predicts rapid progression of coronary artery disease. HR variability provided information on progression of focal coronary atherosclerosis beyond that obtained by traditional risk markers of atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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