To investigate the effect of age on heart rate recovery (HRR) from cognitive challenge.
Aging is an independent risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. HRR from exercise is an established predictor of cardiac morbidity and mortality, and evidence suggests that HRR from cognitive challenge is predictive of cardiac morbidity as well. Aging is associated with delayed HRR from exercise stress, but little is known about the effect of aging on HRR from psychological stress. We tested the hypothesis that age would be related to delayed HRR from psychological stress.
HRR post exposure to cognitive challenge (mental arithmetic and Stroop) was investigated in a sample of 436 participants aged 35 to 84 years in MIDUS II, a national study of health and well-being. HRR was measured as 1) the amount of change from the stress level; 2) time to recover; and 3) the area under the curve. The analyses were controlled for medical comorbidities and medications that influence HR, such as body mass index, smoking, sex, menopausal status, and amount of physical activity/exercise.
There was no effect for age on HRR as evaluated by all three recovery assessment methods.
Contrary to expectation and in contrast to findings concerning HRR from exercise, HRR from cognitive challenge was preserved with age. These findings require further inquiry into differential mechanism(s) underlying HRR from psychological versus exercise stress, including any role for improved emotion regulation with greater age.
HR = heart rate;
HRR = heart rate recovery;
AUC = area under the curve;
ECG = electrocardiogram.