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Original Research: ASTHMA |

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback*: Effects of Age on Heart Rate Variability, Baroreflex Gain, and Asthma

Paul Lehrer, PhD; Evgeny Vaschillo, PhD; Shou-En Lu, PhD; Dwain Eckberg, MD; Bronya Vaschillo, MD; Anthony Scardella, MD; Robert Habib, PhD
Author and Funding Information

*From UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (Drs. Lehrer and Scardella), Piscataway and New Brunswick, NJ; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (Drs. E. Vaschillo and B. Vaschillo), Piscataway, NJ; UMDNJ-School of Public Health (Dr. Lu), Piscataway, NJ; Virginia Commonwealth University (Dr. Eckberg), Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, VA; and Mercy Children’s Hospital (Dr. Habib), Toledo, OH.

Correspondence to: Paul Lehrer, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 671 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854; e-mail: lehrer@umdnj.edu



Chest. 2006;129(2):278-284. doi:10.1378/chest.129.2.278
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Objectives: To present additional analysis of data from a previously published study showing that biofeedback training to increase heart rate variability (HRV) can be an effective component in asthma treatment. HRV and intervention-related changes in HRV are negatively correlated with age. Here we assess the effects of age on biofeedback effects for asthma.

Design: Ten sessions of HRV biofeedback were administered to 45 adults with asthma. Medication was prescribed by blinded physicians according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute criteria. Medication needs were reassessed biweekly.

Results: Decreases in need for controller medication were independent of age. There were larger acute decreases in forced oscillation frequency dependence in the older group but larger increases in HRV variables in the younger group. Differences between age groups were smaller among subjects trained in pursed-lips abdominal breathing as well as biofeedback, than among those receiving only biofeedback.

Conclusions: Age-related attenuation of biofeedback effects on cardiovascular variability does not diminish the usefulness of the method for treating asthma among older patients. Additional training in pursed-lips abdominal breathing obliterates the effects of age on HRV changes during biofeedback.

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