The purpose of this study was to evaluate the chronic effect of rilmenidine on time domain indexes of heart rate variability in patients with mild hypertension. Twenty patients (12 males, eight females; mean age, 47 yr; age range, 38-55 yr), with untreated and newly diagnosed mild hypertension were studied. There was no evidence of diseases other than hypertension. All patients received I mg of rilmenidine once daily. If the diastolic blood pressure was still greater than 90 mm Hg after 4 weeks of active treatment, the dose was increased to 2 mg once daily. Twenty-four hour ambulatory electrocardiograms were recorded before, and 4 and 12 weeks after the start of therapy, Time domain parameters of heart rate variability were calculated. Rilmenidine therapy determined a marked decrease in blood pressure. At 4 weeks, rilmenidine induced a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and a further reduction was observed after 12 weeks. At 4 and 12 weeks, time domain parameters of heart rate variability and heart rate were not significantly different in the data obtained before therapy. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that the administration of rilmenidine to patients with mild essential hypertension induced significant reductions in blood pressure, without any significant changes in time domain parameters of heart rate variability.