Metabolic syndrome (MetS) increases the risk of cardiovascular events. Heart rate variability (HRV) represents autonomic functioning, and reduced HRV significantly increases cardiovascular mortality. The aims of the present paper are to assess the prevalence of MetS in adults with intellectual disabilities (ID), the difference in short-term HRV between the healthy and ID population, and the association of short-term HRV with MetS. In this study, we analyzed 129 ID subjects who participated in routine health check-ups in October 2010. We measured their metabolic components and evaluated the relationships of MetS with short-term HRV indices. The study found that MetS and obesity are common in persons with ID. ID subjects have significantly lower HRV than healthy adults, and persons with ID persons with MetS have significantly lower HRV than ID subjects without MetS. The individual components of MetS are differentially associated with HRV in ID men and women. Metabolic syndrome adversely affects autonomic cardiac control, and reduced autonomic cardiac control could contribute to an increased risk of subsequent cardiovascular events in individuals who exhibit metabolic syndrome. Sex differences in vagal activity and sympathovagal balance may partly explain the greater increase in cardiovascular risk associated with MetS in ID women compared with ID men.
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