Interrelationships among measures of autonomic activity and cardiovascular risk factors during orthostasis and the oral glucose tolerance test

E. Peles*, D. S. Goldstein, S. Akselrod, H. Nitzan, M. Azaria, S. Almog, D. Dolphin, H. Halkin, M. Modan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Overstimulation of sympathetic nervous system activity is related to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk, but the role of parasympathetic activity in this association is not clear. This study evaluated sympathetic and parasympathetic function by spectral analysis of heart rate variability and plasma levels of norepinephrine (NE) epinephrine (EPI), dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG), dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). It also examined the interrelationships among these parameters and established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk factors in 53 men (mean age 59.5 years). During supine rest, low-frequency power correlated positively with high-frequency power (r = 0.58, p < 0.001), plasma NE correlated with plasma DHPG (r = 0.41, p < 0.001) and plasma DOPA with DOPAC (r = 0.47, p < 0.001) but neither low- nor high-frequency power was correlated with plasma levels of any catechol. Among risk factors, plasma NE correlated with fasting insulin and mean arterial blood pressure, and urine NE correlated with body mass index. Both low- and high-frequency power correlated positively with insulin levels. Orthostasis decreased high-frequency power and increased low-frequency power and plasma NE levels. During the oral glucose tolerance test, both high- and low-frequency power increased, plasma NE levels were unchanged, and plasma EPI levels decreased [88.5 ± 18 (SEM) versus 52.5 ± 12 pM, p = 0.001]. The results suggest that orthostasis decreases and the oral glucose tolerance test increases parasympathetic outflows, whereas both stimuli increase sympathetic outflows. Among all atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk factors, hyperinsulinaemia showed the strongest association with autonomic nervous system activity, especially parasympathetic activity. Estimates of sympathetic responses obtained from power spectral analysis of heart rate variability agree poorly with those from plasma levels of catechols, possibly because of a parasympathetic contribution to low-frequency power and independence of sympathoneural outflows to the arm and heart.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • catecholamines
  • heart rate
  • parasympathetic nervous system
  • spectral analysis
  • stress
  • sympathetic nervous system


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