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OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of a lipophilic and a hydrophilic beta(1) blocker on cardiac sympatho-vagal balance during daytime activity and stress in patients four to six weeks after myocardial infarction. DESIGN: Randomised, double blind, crossover study comparing the effect of atenolol (50 mg once daily) with metoprolol CR (100 mg once daily) with treatment periods of four weeks. SETTING: Large teaching hospital. PATIENTS: 50 patients (45 male, 5 female, age range 40 to 75 years), four to six weeks after an acute myocardial infarction. METHODS: At the end of each treatment period the 24 hour heart rate variability, heart rate variability power spectra during head up tilt and mental stress, baroreflex sensitivity, and exercise performance were evaluated. RESULTS: During daytime activity and during orthostatic and mental stress, both heart rate and the ratio between the low and high frequency spectral components of the heart rate variability were significantly lower with atenolol. Conversely, there was no difference between treatments in baroreflex sensitivity and resting plasma catecholamines. Exercise duration and peak oxygen consumption did not differ between treatments, but the heart rate during submaximal and peak exercise was significantly lower with atenolol. CONCLUSIONS: At the doses used in this study, atenolol achieved greater beta(1) adrenergic blockade than metoprolol CR and this was associated with significant inhibition of vagal withdrawal during stress. This suggests that peripheral blockade of beta(1) adrenergic receptors may be more important than central blockade in preventing stress induced vagal withdrawal in patients after myocardial infarction.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





153 - 160


Adrenergic beta-Antagonists, Adult, Aged, Atenolol, Baroreflex, Cross-Over Studies, Double-Blind Method, Exercise Test, Female, Heart Rate, Humans, Male, Metoprolol, Middle Aged, Myocardial Infarction, Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted, Stress, Psychological, Tilt-Table Test