The incidence of cardiovascular disease is higher in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. We hypothesized that long-term vegetarian diets might modulate cardiovascular autonomic functions measured by frequency-domain techniques in healthy postmenopausal women. A total of 35 healthy vegetarians (mean age ± SEM 55.0 ± 1.3 years) who had been vegetarians for ≥2 years and 35 omnivores (55.1 ± 1.4 years) participated in this study. These subjects were all postmenopausal without hormone replacement therapy. Fluctuations in arterial blood pressure and heart rate variability were diffracted into low-frequency (0.04 to 0.15 Hz) and high-frequency (0.15 to 0.4 Hz) segments. Cardiovascular autonomic functions and baroreflex sensitivity were evaluated by specific frequency-domain measures. The vegetarians had statistically lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and lower serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and hemoglobin levels compared with the nonvegetarians. They also exhibited a significantly higher high-frequency power of heart rate variability and increased baroreflex sensitivity than did omnivores. No statistical differences were found in the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio or percentage of low frequency of heart rate variability between the 2 groups. In conclusion, in addition to the lower blood pressure and lipid concentrations in vegetarians, long-term vegetarian diets may facilitate vagal regulation of the heart and increase baroreflex sensitivity in healthy postmenopausal women, without increasing the sympathetic modulations of the cardiovascular system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas