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Association between cardiac autonomic neuropathy and hypertension and its potential influence on diabetic complications


Professeur Paul Valensi, Service d’Endocrinologie-Diabétologie-Nutrition, Hôpital Jean Verdier, Avenue du 14 Juillet – 93140 BONDY, France. E-mail:


Diabet. Med. 27, 804–811 (2010)


Aims  To examine the association between cardiac autonomic neuropathy and hypertension and the role of this association in diabetic complications.

Methods  We included 310 patients, 138 with Type 1 and 172 with Type 2 diabetes, 62 of them with hypertension. Cardiac autonomic neuropathy was assessed by analysing heart rate variations during three standard tests (deep breathing, lying to standing and Valsalva) and looking for postural hypotension.

Results  Cardiac autonomic neuropathy was present in 123 patients and 39 also had hypertension. The prevalence of a cardiac autonomic neuropathy/hypertension association was higher in Type 2 patients (P < 0.002). The prevalence of hypertension increased with the severity of cardiac autonomic neuropathy. In multiple logistic regression analysis, cardiac autonomic neuropathy was an independent risk factor for hypertension [odds ratio 2.86 (1.54–5.32); P < 0.001]. Only confirmed or severe cardiac autonomic neuropathy (two or more abnormal function tests, respectively) were independent risk factors for hypertension (P < 0.005 and < 0.0001). Cardiac autonomic neuropathy was found in most of the patients with macrovascular complications, retinopathy or nephropathy, but a large majority of the patients with these complications exhibited the cardiac autonomic neuropathy/hypertension profile. This profile was more prevalent among the patients with coronary or peripheral artery disease or antecedent stroke than among those free of these complications (P < 0.001). In logistic regression analyses, the cardiac autonomic neuropathy/hypertension profile associated significantly with macro- and microvascular complications.

Conclusions  These data are strongly in favour of the role of cardiac autonomic neuropathy in hypertension in diabetic patients. The association of the cardiac autonomic neuropathy/hypertension profile with vascular complications is consistent with a deleterious effect on vascular hemodynamics and structure, additional to the effects of hypertension.