Hypertension is more frequent and more severe in older individuals and in African Americans. Differences in autonomic nervous system activity might contribute to these differences. Autonomic effects on the heart can be studied noninvasively through analysis of heart rate variability
(HRV). We examined the effects of age
We studied 135 subjects (57 African Americans and 78 Caucasian Americans), aged 23 to 54 years. Using their surface electrocardiogram (ECG) data, we calculated the HRV indices with spectral analyses. High frequency (HF) power was used to index parasympathetic activity, whereas the ratio of low to high frequency power (LF/HF) was used to index sympathovagal balance.
Three HRV indices (HF, LF power, and LF/HF) were significantly related to age
in Caucasian Americans but not in African Americans. The effect of age
, and the age
interaction on HF and LF power was significant, even after controlling for gender, body mass index, and blood pressure.
Young African Americans manifested a pattern of HRV response similarly to older Caucasian Americans. These results suggest that young African American individuals might show signs of premature aging in their autonomic nervous system.
HRV = heart rate variability; HF = high frequency; LF = low frequency; AA = African Americans; CA = Caucasian Americans; BP = blood pressure; ECG = electrocardiogram; BMI = body mass index; ARIC = Atherosclerosis Risks in Communities.