Patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) often experience anger events before cardiovascular events. Anger is a psychological risk factor and causes underlying psychophysiological mechanisms to lose balance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The heart rate variability (HRV) was the common index for ANS regulation. It has been confirmed that heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) restored ANS balance in patients with CAD during the resting state. However, the effects of HRV-BF during and after the anger event remain unknown. This study aimed to examine the effects of HRV-BF on ANS reactivity and recovery during the anger recall task in patients with CAD. This study was a randomized control trial with a wait-list control group design, with forty patients in the HRV-BF group (for six sessions) and 44 patients in the control group. All patients received five stages of an anger recall task, including baseline, neutral recall task, neutral recovery, anger recall task, and anger recovery. HRV reactivity in the HRV-BF group at the post-test was lower than that in the control group. HRV recovery at the post-test in the HRV-BF group was higher than that in the control group. The HRV-BF reduced ANS reactivity during anger events and increased ANS recovery after anger events for CAD patients. The possible mechanisms of HRV-BF may increase total HRV, ANS regulation, and baroreflex activation at anger events for patients with CAD, and may be a suitable program for cardiac rehabilitation.
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