The effect of continuously slowing respiration (from 0.46 to 0.05 Hz, eg, from 30 to 3 breaths per minute) on cardiovascular variables was studied in 14 hypertensive patients and 16 normotensive subjects. Beat-to-beat timefrequency (Wigner) distributions were used for dynamic analysis of RR interval and systolic and diastolic pressures. Dominant breathing frequency at rest did not differ in hypertensive patients from the control group (0.21 versus 0.19 Hz). However, in the hypertensive group it was disturbed 34.4% of the time by slow breathing and apneas, which evoked transient blood pressure instability and increased spectral powers at low frequencies (range, 0.01 to 0.1 Hz). The nonrespiratory fluctuations (NONRFs) and respiratory fluctuations (RFs) in RR interval and NONRFs in systolic pressure were smaller in hypertensive patients (P<.001). In both groups, slowing of respiratory frequency from 0.46 to 0.05 Hz entrained RFs in the RR interval and systolic and diastolic pressures. RFs in the RR interval remained diminished in hypertensive patients (P<.001), but RFs in systolic pressure increased higher at maximum, corresponding to breathing frequencies from 0.07 to 0.09 Hz (P<.001). A dynamic cardiorespiratory index (ratio of RFs in RR interval and systolic pressure) was smaller (P<.01) in hypertensive patients than in normotensive subjects. Irregular breathing at rest was found in hypertensive patients. The transfer from respiration into RR interval was diminished, suggesting an impaired parasympathetic responsiveness in mild hypertension.