A comparison of the cardiac responses to a variety of maneuvers that modify cardiac vagal tone was made in nondiabetic and diabetic subjects. We concluded that assessment of heart rate variability by reference to standard deviation of R-R intervals is unhelpful; that a single deep breath is a more potent stimulus for heart rate change than repeated deep breaths in diabetic subjects; and that measurement of this response together with the bradycardia evoked by the Valsalva maneuver obviate the need to perform invasive investigations, such as the estimation of baroreflex sensitivity, or tedious procedures, such as apneic face immersion. In a small number of subjects, heart responses to lower body, negative pressure provided information not forthcoming from other tests.

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