Heart Rate Variability Can Predict Kidney Function

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By: Jan Chait

A new study has examined the relationship of decreased heart rate variability—the beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate—to protein in the urine and observable kidney disease. The study reports that severely reduced heart rate variability at baseline was associated with progressive kidney deterioration one year later.

Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, and in Mexico City explain that impaired heart rate variability is a marker of nerve disease in the heart (cardiac autonomic neuropathy) and a common complication of long-standing type 1 diabetes. In studying 23 individuals with type 1, whose average age was 37, they found a marked decrease in heart rate variability indices in all of the study subjects.

Heart rate variability was associated with creatinine clearance—a marker of kidney disease—and, less frequently, with average 24-hour blood pressure and cholesterol. The researchers write that their findings “may have implications for aggressive medical intervention to improve prognosis and survival in this population.”

—International Journal of Cardiology, December 2002

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