Fractal scale-invariant and nonlinear properties of cardiac dynamics remain stable with advanced age: a new mechanistic picture of cardiac control in healthy elderly
Journal Article

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Published: Thursday, November 01, 2007
Citation: American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, Volume 293, Pages R1923-R1937

Authors (1 total): P. C. Ivanov

Abstract: Heart beat fluctuations exhibit temporal structure with robust long-range correlations, fractal and nonlinear features, which have been found to break down with pathologic conditions, reflecting changes in the mechanism of neuroautonomic control. It has been hypothesized that these features change and even break down also with advanced age, suggesting fundamental alterations in cardiac control with aging. Here we test this hypothesis. We analyze heart beat interval recordings from the following two independent databases: 1) 19 healthy young (average age 25.7 yr) and 16 healthy elderly subjects (average age 73.8 yr) during 2 h under resting conditions from the Fantasia database; and 2) 29 healthy elderly subjects (average age 75.9 yr) during ≈8 h of sleep from the sleep heart health study (SHHS) database, and the same subjects recorded 5 yr later. We quantify: 1) the average heart rate (); 2) the SD σR-R and σΔR-R of the heart beat intervals R-R and their increments ΔR-R; 3) the long-range correlations in R-R as measured by the scaling exponent αR-R using the Detrended Fluctuation Analysis; 4) fractal linear and nonlinear properties as represented by the scaling exponents αsgn and αmag for the time series of the sign and magnitude of ΔR-R; and 5) the nonlinear fractal dimension D(k) of R-R using the fractal dimension analysis. We find: 1) No significant difference in (P > 0.05); 2) a significant difference in σR-R and σΔR-R for the Fantasia groups (P < 10−4) but no significant change with age between the elderly SHHS groups (P > 0.5); and 3) no significant change in the fractal measures αR-R (P > 0.15), αsgn (P > 0.2), αmag (P > 0.3), and D(k) with age. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that fractal linear and nonlinear characteristics of heart beat dynamics break down with advanced age in healthy subjects. Although our results indeed show a reduced SD of heart beat fluctuations with advanced age, the inherent temporal fractal and nonlinear organization of these fluctuations remains stable. This indicates that the coupled cascade of nonlinear feedback loops, which are believed to underlie cardiac neuroautonomic regulation, remains intact with advanced age.