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Metabolic syndrome is associated with decreased heart rate variability in a sex-dependent manner: a comparison between 252 men and 249 women

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-167
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Issue number2
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Impaired heart rate variability (HRV) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but evidence regarding alterations of HRV in metabolic syndrome (MetS) remains elusive. In order to examine HRV in MetS, we subjected 501 volunteers without atherosclerosis, diabetes or antihypertensive medication, mean age 48 years, to passive head-up tilt. The subjects were divided to control men (n = 131), men with MetS (n = 121), control women (n = 191) and women with MetS (n = 58) according to the criteria by Alberti et al. (Circulation, 2009, 120, 1640). In unadjusted analyses (i) men and women with MetS had lower total power and high-frequency (HF) power of HRV than controls whether supine or upright (P<0·05 for all). (ii) Supine low-frequency (LF) power of HRV was lower in men (P = 0·012) but not in women (P = 0·064) with MetS than in controls, while men and women with MetS had lower upright LF power of HRV than controls (P <0·01 for both). (iii) The LF:HF ratio did not differ between subjects with and without MetS. After adjustment for age, smoking habits, alcohol intake, height, heart rate and breathing frequency, only the differences in upright total power and HF power of HRV between women with MetS and control women remained significant (P<0·05). In conclusion, reduced total and HF power of HRV in the upright position may partially explain why the relative increase in cardiovascular risk associated with MetS is greater in women than in men. Additionally, the present results emphasize that the confounding factors must be carefully taken into consideration when evaluating HRV.

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • cardiac autonomic tone, cardiovascular risk, head-up tilt, obesity, sex

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland