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African Health Sciences

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Allostatic load and heart rate variability as health risk indicators

Margaretha Viljoen, Nicolaas Claassen

Abstract


Background: Uncertainty often exists about the comparability of results obtained by different health risk indicator systems.

Objectives: To compare two health risk indicator systems, i.e, allostatic load and heart rate variability (HRV). Additionally, to investigate the feasibility of inclusion of HRV indicators into allostatic load assessments and which HRV indicators are best to introduce.

Methods: Allostatic loads were calculated based on blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio, BMI, cholesterol, HDL-C, LDL-C, CRP, albumin, glycosylated haemoglobin, blood glucose and cortisol excretion. Allostatic load scores were compared to HRV results obtained by frequency domain, time domain and Poincaré analyses.

Results: Negative correlations were found between allostatic loads and total HRV, for all periods and all HRV analytical techniques (r=-0.67, p=0.0001 to r=-0.435, p=0.035), and between allostatic loads and vagal measures of HRV for supine (r=-0.592, p=0.001 to r=-0.584, p=0.001) and the first 5 minutes standing (r=-0.443, p=0.021 to r=-0.407, p=0.035), with all HRV techniques. Heart rate responses declined with increases in allostatic loads.

Conclusion: HRV and allostatic load scores give comparable results as health risk indicators. Baseline total HRV and vagal, rather than sympathetic, measures of HRV should be introduced into allostatic load assessments. Results are in line with the concept of vagal tone as a regulator of allostatic systems. Inclusion of heart rate responses to orthostatic stress, into allostatic load assessments, warrants further investigation.

Keywords: Psychosocial stress; allostatic load; heart rate variability




http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/ahs.v17i2.17
AJOL African Journals Online