The respiratory sinus arrhythmia: a measure of cardiac age

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Science  01 Jun 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4652, pp. 1001-1004
DOI: 10.1126/science.6372092


A method developed for quantifying respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during voluntary cardiorespiratory synchronization relies on computer-assisted rhythmometric cosinor analysis of instantaneous heart rate data. The RSA was present in all subjects tested, even those at advanced ages. The amplitude of the RSA falls approximately 10 percent per decade. An individual with a transplanted heart and one with severe diabetic neuropathy each had resting RSA values that were normal for their ages. The shape and amplitude of the RSA during voluntary cardiorespiratory synchronization may reflect the suppleness of the heart and its response to rhythmically changing intrathoracic pressure and the subsequent ebb-and-flow of venous return. Our technology allows objective quantitative assessment of the biologic age of the heart and also the effect of any drug, disease, or behavior that affects the RSA.