Deep breathing improves blunted baroreflex sensitivity even after 30 years of type 1 diabetes

M. Rosengård-Bärlund, L. Bernardi, J. Holmqvist, G. Debarbieri, M. Mäntysaari, C. G. Af Björkesten, C. Forsblom, P. H. Groop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims/hypotheses: Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is associated with increased morbidity in patients with type 1 diabetes. Although it is conventionally considered to be an organic, irreversible disorder, we previously demonstrated in patients with short-duration type 1 diabetes that reduced baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) could be corrected by slow, deep breathing, indicating a functional component to the disorder. We have now tested whether autonomic abnormalities in long-term diabetes progress to a stage that cannot be modified by functional manoeuvres, indicating a switch towards predominantly organic dysfunction. Methods: We studied 117 patients with a short duration (8.9 ± 0.1 years) and 37 patients with a long duration (33.7 ± 0.5 years) of type 1 diabetes, 73 healthy controls and 12 heart-transplanted participants (surgical heart denervation). An autonomic score was calculated from autonomic function tests. Spectral analysis of heart rate and blood pressure variability, and BRS, were obtained from recordings during normal (15 breaths per min) and slow, deep (six breaths per min) controlled breathing. Results: BRS was reduced in all patients, but more in patients with a long duration of diabetes or with increasing autonomic involvement, although the effect of duration disappeared after adjustment for age. Slow breathing increased the BRS to the level of the control participants at a normal rate of breathing (15 per min) in all patients except those with an abnormal autonomic score. Conclusions/interpretation: Patients with type 1 diabetes have a blunted BRS that in the majority of patients can be restored by slow breathing, irrespective of disease duration. Even after a long duration of diabetes, the abnormal BRS is at least in part of functional origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1862-1870
Number of pages9
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Autonomic dysfunction
  • Baroreflex sensitivity
  • Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Heart rate variability
  • Hypertension
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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