Cardiac interbeat interval dynamics from childhood to senescence : comparison of conventional and new measures based on fractals and chaos theory

Author: S M Pikkujämsä1, T H Mäkikallio, L B Sourander, I J Räihä, P Puukka, J Skyttä, C K Peng, A L Goldberger, H V Huikuri
1 Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland.
2 Beth Israel Hosp, Boston, MA
Conference/Journal: Circulation
Date published: 1999 Jul 27
Other: Volume ID: 100 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 393-9 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1161/01.cir.100.4.393. , Word Count: 314

New methods of R-R interval variability based on fractal scaling and nonlinear dynamics ("chaos theory") may give new insights into heart rate dynamics. The aims of this study were to (1) systematically characterize and quantify the effects of aging from early childhood to advanced age on 24-hour heart rate dynamics in healthy subjects; (2) compare age-related changes in conventional time- and frequency-domain measures with changes in newly derived measures based on fractal scaling and complexity (chaos) theory; and (3) further test the hypothesis that there is loss of complexity and altered fractal scaling of heart rate dynamics with advanced age.

Methods and results:
The relationship between age and cardiac interbeat (R-R) interval dynamics from childhood to senescence was studied in 114 healthy subjects (age range, 1 to 82 years) by measurement of the slope, beta, of the power-law regression line (log power-log frequency) of R-R interval variability (10(-4) to 10(-2) Hz), approximate entropy (ApEn), short-term (alpha(1)) and intermediate-term (alpha(2)) fractal scaling exponents obtained by detrended fluctuation analysis, and traditional time- and frequency-domain measures from 24-hour ECG recordings. Compared with young adults (<40 years old, n=29), children (<15 years old, n=27) showed similar complexity (ApEn) and fractal correlation properties (alpha(1), alpha(2), beta) of R-R interval dynamics despite lower spectral and time-domain measures. Progressive loss of complexity (decreased ApEn, r=-0.69, P<0.001) and alterations of long-term fractal-like heart rate behavior (increased alpha(2), r=0.63, decreased beta, r=-0.60, P<0.001 for both) were observed thereafter from middle age (40 to 60 years, n=29) to old age (>60 years, n=29).

Cardiac interbeat interval dynamics change markedly from childhood to old age in healthy subjects. Children show complexity and fractal correlation properties of R-R interval time series comparable to those of young adults, despite lower overall heart rate variability. Healthy aging is associated with R-R interval dynamics showing higher regularity and altered fractal scaling consistent with a loss of complex variability.

PMID: 10421600 DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.100.4.393