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Clin Auton Res. 2005 Feb;15(1):45-50.

Impaired vagal modulation of heart rate in individuals with Down syndrome.

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Exercise Science Department, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA.


The attenuated heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) response to exercise in individuals with Down syndrome (DS) has been attributed to autonomic dysfunction, which has been associated with obesity. Our purpose was to determine the role of autonomic control of HR to the attenuated chronotropic response observed in individuals with DS. We evaluated spectral analysis of HR variability (HRV) in 13 individuals with (BMI 32+/-5 kg/m(2), P<0.05) and 14 without DS (BMI 26+/-3 kg/m(2)) by means of 2 min isometric handgrip at 30% of maximal force followed by recovery. Noninvasive measures of HR (ECG) and systolic BP (SBP) (Portapres) were recorded continuously. The increases in HR and SBP, and decrease in high frequency (HF) component were significantly greater in controls than in individuals with DS (P<0.05) during handgrip. The increase in LF/HF ratio was not significantly affected by handgrip and was comparable in both groups. During recovery, the decreases in HR, SBP, and LF/HF ratio, and the increase in HF were significantly greater in controls than in individuals with DS (P<0.05). Controlling for BMI did not alter these results. The attenuated HR and SBP response to the handgrip test in individuals with DS is explained by blunted vagal modulation. Our study suggests that autonomic dysfunction in individuals with DS might be independent of obesity.

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