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This article is the author’s final published version in Physiological Reports, Volume 10, Issue 8, April 2022, Article number e15277.

The published version is available at Copyright © Anselmo et al.


Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a common form of muscular dystrophy, is caused by a genetic mutation that alters DUX4 gene expression. This mutation contributes to significant skeletal muscle loss. Although it is suggested that cardiac muscle may be spared, people with FSHD have demonstrated autonomic dysregulation. It is unknown if baroreflex function, an important regulator of blood pressure (BP), is impaired in people with FSHD. We examined if baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) is blunted in patients with FSHD. Thirty minutes of resting BP, heart rate, and cardiovagal BRS were measured in 13 patients with FSHD (age: 50 ± 13 years, avg ± SD) and 17 sex- and age-matched controls (age: 47 ± 14 years, p > 0.05). People with FSHD were less active (Activity Metabolic Index, AMI) (FSHD: 24 ± 30; controls: 222 ± 175 kcal/day; p < 0.001) but had a similar body mass index compared with controls (FSHD: 27 ± 4; controls: 27 ± 4 kg/m2 ; p > 0.05). BRSup (hypertensive response), BRSdown (hypotensive response), and total BRS were similar between groups (BRSup: FSHD: 12 ± 8; controls: 12 ± 5 ms/mmHg; BRSdown: FSHD: 10 ± 4; controls: 13 ± 6 ms/mmHg; BRS: FSHD: 14 ± 9; controls: 13 ± 6 ms/mmHg; p > 0.05). Mean arterial pressure was similar between groups (FSHD: 96 ± 7; controls: 91 ± 6mmHg). Individuals with FSHD had an elevated heart rate compared with controls (FSHD: 65 ± 8; controls: 59 ± 8 BPM; p = 0.03), but when co-varied for AMI, this relationship disappeared (p = 0.39). These findings suggest that BRS is not attenuated in people with FSHD, but an elevated heart rate may be due to low physical activity levels, a potential consequence of limited mobility.

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