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Correlation of heart rate variability with cardiac functional and metabolic variables in cyclists with training induced left ventricular hypertrophy


OBJECTIVE To examine the correlation between heart rate variability and left ventricular mass in cyclists with an athlete’s heart.

METHODS Left ventricular mass and diastolic function were determined at rest and myocardial high energy phosphates were quantified at rest and during atropine–dobutamine stress in 12 male cyclists and 10 control subjects, using magnetic resonance techniques. Ambulatory 24 hour ECG recordings were obtained, and time and frequency domain heart rate variability indices were computed.

RESULTS In the cyclists, the mean of all RR intervals between normal beats (meanNN), the SD of the RR intervals, and their coefficient of variation were significantly greater than in control subjects (p < 0.01, p < 0.01, and p < 0.05, respectively). For cyclists and control subjects, only meanNN correlated with left ventricular mass (r = 0.48, p = 0.038). The heart rate variability indices that correlated with functional or metabolic variables were: meanNN v E/A peak (the ratio of peak early and peak atrial filling rate) (r = 0.48, p = 0.039); the root mean square of successive differences in RR intervals among successive normal beats v E/A area (ratio of peak early and peak atrial filling volume) (r = 0.48, p = 0.040); percentage of successive RR intervals differing by more than 50 ms v the phosphocreatine to ATP ratio at rest (r = 0.54, p = 0.017); and the SD of the average RR intervals during all five minute periodsv the phosphocreatine to ATP ratio during stress (r = 0.60, p = 0.007).

CONCLUSIONS Highly trained cyclists have increased heart rate variability indices, reflecting increased cardiac vagal control compared with control subjects. Left ventricular mass has no major influence on heart rate variability, but heart rate variability is significantly correlated with high energy phosphate metabolism and diastolic function.

  • heart rate variability
  • left ventricular mass
  • hypertrophy
  • athlete’s heart

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