Central Command and the Regulation of Exercise Heart Rate Response in Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction.

Sarma S; Howden E; Lawley J; Samels M; Levine BD;

Circulation [Circulation] 2020 Nov 18. Date of Electronic Publication: 2020 Nov 18.

Background: Chronotropic incompetence (CI) is common in HFpEF and is linked to impaired aerobic capacity. Whether upstream autonomic signaling pathways responsible for raising exercise heart rate (HR) are impaired in HFpEF is unknown. We investigated the integrity of central command and muscle metaboreceptor function, two predominant mechanisms responsible for exertional increases in HR, in HFpEF and senior control subjects. Methods: Fourteen healthy, senior controls (7M,7F) and 20 carefully screened HFpEF patients (8M,12F) underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing (peak VO 2 ) and static handgrip exercise at 40% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) to fatigue with post-exercise circulatory arrest (PECA) for 2 minutes to assess central command and metaboreceptor function respectively.
Results: Peak VO 2 (13.1 ± 3.4 vs 22.7 ± 4.0 ml/kg/min; p<0.001) and HR (122 ± 20 vs 155 ± 14 bpm; p<0.001) were lower in HFpEF than senior controls. There were no significant differences in peak HR response during static handgrip between groups (HFpEF vs controls: 90 ± 13 vs 93 ± 10 bpm; p=0.49). Metaboreceptor function defined as mean arterial blood pressure at the end of PECA was also not significantly different between groups.
Conclusions: Central command (vagally mediated) and metaboreceptor function (sympathetically mediated) in patients with HFpEF were not different from healthy senior controls despite significantly lower peak whole-body exercise heart rates. These results demonstrate key reflex autonomic pathways regulating exercise heart rate responsiveness are intact in HFpEF.