Effect of aging on gender differences in neural control of heart rate

Terry B J Kuo, Tsann Lin, Cheryl C H Yang, Chia Lin Li, Chieh Fu Chen, Pesus Chou

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486 Citations (Scopus)


To clarify the influence of gender on sympathetic and parasympathetic control of heart rate in middle-aged subjects and on the subsequent aging process, heart rate variability (HRV) was studied in normal populations of women (n = 598) and men (n = 472) ranging in age from 40 to 79 yr. These groups were divided into eight age strata at 5-yr intervals and were clinically diagnosed as having no hypertension, hypotension, diabetic neuropathy, or cardiac arrhythmia. Frequency-domain analysis of short-term, stationary R-R intervals was performed, which reveals very-low-frequency power (VLF; 0.003-0.04 Hz), low-frequency power (LF; 0.04-0.15 Hz), high- frequency power (HF; 0.15-0.40 Hz), the ratio of LF to HF (LF/HF), and LF and HF power in normalized units (LF% and HF%, respectively). The distribution of variance, VLF, LF, HF, and LF/HF exhibited acute skewness, which was adjusted by natural logarithmic transformation. Women had higher HF in the age strata from 40 to 49 yr, whereas men had higher LF% and LF/HF between 40 and 59 yr. No disparity in HRV measurements was found between the sexes in age strata ≥60 yr. Although absolute measurements of HRV (variance, VLF, LF, and HF) decreased linearly with age, no significant change in relative measurements (LF/HF, LF%, and HF%), especially in men, was detected until age 60 yr. We conclude that middle-aged women and men have a more dominant parasympathetic and sympathetic regulation of heart rate, respectively. The gender-related difference in parasympathetic regulation diminishes after age 50 yr, whereas a significant time delay for the disappearance of sympathetic dominance occurs in men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H2233-H2239
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6 46-6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Frequency domain analysis
  • Gender difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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