The variation in heart rate (HRV) at rest and during deep breathing (6 cycles a minute) of 88 professional lumber jacks was studied using a computer technique. The traditional indexes of HRV (CV, CVS, MEAN) were calculated and the spectral components of the HRV were also computed. There was a significant difference (p less than 0.001) between the HRV indexes during the deep breathing test in those with the shortest (CV = 10.1 +/- 1.1) and those with the longest (CV V 6.2 +/- 0.4) exposures to vibration. The values of the HRV indexes decreased with age, but multiple regression analysis showed that the total exposure time to vibration had an independent negative association with the HRV. There were significant differences in all the frequency bands (frequency related power, FRP) of the heart rate between those with the longest and those with the shortest exposures. The HRV during a deep breathing test is associated with the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and is decreased in autonomic neuropathies. Our results suggest that prolonged exposure to the vibration caused by a chain saw has a negative effect on the parasympathetic activity and thus causes autonomic dysfunction.
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