Age, gender and fractal scaling in heart rate variability

Kuniaki Otsuka, Germaine G Cornelissen-Guillaume, Franz Halberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


1. The fractal scaling of heart rate variability, gauged by the correlation dimension (CD), is hypothesized to be characterized by a time structure (chronome), which in health shows differences as a function of gender and age. 2. From 24 h Holter records of 44 clinically healthy male subjects in four age groups (5-10, 20-25, 40-45 and 60-65 years; n = 11 in each group), 500 s sections at 4 h intervals for 24 h were analysed for smoothed R-R intervals sampled at 4 Hz. Using an algorithm modified from Grassberger and Procaccia, the correlation integral was estimated for embedding dimensions from 1 to 20 with a 1.0 s time lag for each section. Nightly (02.00 hours-06.00 hours) ECG records were similarly analysed in 72 additional clinically healthy subjects of both genders, 5-70 years of age. The single cosinor assessed the circadian characteristics; one- and two-way analyses of variance and linear regression were used to examine changes as a function of gender and age. 3. The 24h average of CD is largest in the 20-25-year-old men and decreases with age thereafter (P < 0.05). These changes apply in particular to the nightly CD values, which are higher in female than in male subjects (P < 0.001). Increasing age is associated with a decrease in the amplitude and an advance in the phase of the circadian rhythm in CD (P < 0.05). 4. A chaotic end-point from fractal scaling, yielding a non-linear index, such as the correlation integral, undergoes a circadian rhythm and changes with gender and age. This assessment in the chronome represents an added diagnostic tool in cardiology, and provides new end-points for the study of coherence among internal variables of autonomic mechanisms and of influences by external environmental variables upon them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalClinical science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • Aging
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Correlation dimension
  • Gender
  • Heart rate variability


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