Regulation of Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System Control across Frailty Statuses: A Systematic Review

Saman Parvaneh, Carol L. Howe, Nima Toosizadeh, Bahareh Honarvar, Marvin J. Slepian, Mindy Fain, Jane Mohler, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Frailty is a geriatric syndrome that leads to impairment in interrelated physiological systems and progressive homeostatic dysregulation in physiological systems. Objective: The focus of the present systematic review was to study the association between the activity of the cardiac autonomic nervous system (ANS) and frailty. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in multiple databases: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, CINAHL, and; the last search was performed in March 2015. Inclusion criteria were: (1) that the studied population was classified for frailty according to a standard definition, such as Fried's criteria; (2) that the study had a nonfrail control group, and (3) that heart rate (HR) and/or heart rate variability (HRV) were parameters of interest in the study. Results: Of the 1,544 articles screened, 54 were selected for full-text review and 6 studies met the inclusion criteria. Assessment of HRV using different standard time domain, frequency domain, and nonlinear domain approaches confirmed the presence of an impaired cardiac ANS function in frail compared to nonfrail participants. Furthermore, HR changes while performing a clinical test (e.g., the seated step test or the lying-to-standing orthostatic test) were decreased in the frail group compared to the nonfrail group. Conclusions: The current systematic review provides evidence that the cardiac ANS is impaired in frail compared to nonfrail older adults, as indicated by a reduction in the complexity of HR dynamics, reduced HRV, and reduced HR changes in response to daily activities. Four out of 6 included articles recruited only female participants, and in the other 2 articles the effect of gender on impairment of cardiac ANS was insufficiently investigated. Therefore, further studies are required to study the association between cardiac ANS impairments and frailty in males. Furthermore, HRV was studied only during static postures such as sitting, or without considering the level of activity as a potential confounder. Accordingly, simultaneous measurement of both physiological (i.e., HRV) and kinematic (e.g., using wearable sensor technology) information may provide a better understanding of cardiac ANS impairments with frailty while controlling for activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Aging
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Frailty
  • Geriatric population
  • Heart rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Older adults
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Sympathovagal balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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