The Impact of Menstrual Cycles in Autonomic Nervous System Function and Heart Health

If you're a menstruating woman, you've likely noticed how your monthly cycle can affect everything from your energy levels and food cravings to your mood and sleep patterns. But did you know your cycle may also influence your cardiac autonomic nervous system?

A new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, sheds light on the complex relationship between menstrual cycle phases and indicators of autonomic function like heart rate variability (HRV). The researchers tracked 15 female college students throughout their menstrual cycles.

What They Found During the luteal phase (after ovulation), the participants exhibited higher sympathetic nervous system activation compared to the follicular phase, as measured by an increased low-frequency to high-frequency HRV ratio.

However, this shift was mitigated when the researchers controlled for other menstrual cycle-related factors like:

  • Diet: Protein and fat intake was higher in the luteal phase
  • Sleep: Total sleep time and awakenings increased in the luteal phase
  • Physical activity: There was a tendency for higher activity levels in the luteal phase
  • Psychological factors: Scores for emotional eating and menstrual distress tended to rise in the luteal phase

Essentially, while autonomic balance did seem to fluctuate across the menstrual cycle, these changes appeared to be influenced by the normal biological and behavioral variations that occur between the follicular and luteal phases in areas like nutrition, rest, exercise, and mood.

Why It Matters These findings underscore how interconnected all the pillars of lifestyle medicine are when it comes to overall health and physiological function. For women, failing to account for cyclical menstrual factors could lead to misinterpretation of markers like HRV that are used to assess autonomic nervous system regulation of processes like heart rate, digestion, and breathing.

As the researchers noted, "Menstrual cycle phase and changes of these [lifestyle] parameters should be considered when assessing the cardiac autonomic function among menstruating women."

By taking a holistic view of how the menstrual cycle impacts different aspects of health behavior and biology, we can develop better personalized approaches for promoting optimal well-being and disease prevention in females across their lifespan. Understanding these mind-body connections is key.




50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.