A Greater Reduction in High-Frequency Heart Rate Variability to a Psychological Stressor is Associated With Subclinical Coronary and Aortic Calcification in Postmenopausal Women

Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.
Psychosomatic Medicine (Impact Factor: 4.09). 08/2005; 67(4):553-60. DOI: 10.1097/01.psy.0000170335.92770.7a
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Reduced cardiac parasympathetic activity, as indicated by a reduced level of clinic or ambulatory high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), is associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. We tested whether the reduction in HF-HRV to a psychological stressor relative to a baseline level is also associated with subclinical coronary or aortic atherosclerosis, as assessed by calcification in these vascular regions.
Spectral estimates of 0.15 to 0.40 Hz HF-HRV were obtained from 94 postmenopausal women (61-69 years) who engaged in a 3-minute speech-preparation stressor after a 6-minute resting baseline. A median of 282 days later, electron beam tomography (EBT) was used to measure the extent of coronary and aortic calcification.
In univariate analyses, a greater reduction in HF-HRV from baseline to speech preparation was associated with having more extensive calcification in the coronary arteries (rho = -0.29, p = .03) and in the aorta (rho = -0.22, p = .06). In multivariate analyses that controlled for age, education level, smoking status, hormone therapy use, fasting glucose, high-density lipoproteins, baseline HF-HRV, and the stressor-induced change in respiration rate, a greater stressor-induced reduction in HF-HRV was associated with more calcification in the coronary arteries (B = -1.21, p < .05), and it was marginally associated with more calcification in the aorta (B = -0.92, p = .09).
In postmenopausal women, a greater reduction in cardiac parasympathetic activity to a psychological stressor from baseline may be an independent correlate of subclinical atherosclerosis, particularly in the coronary arteries.

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