Neural control of blood pressure is altered following isolated leg heating in aged humans

Rachel E. Engelland, Holden W. Hemingway, Olivia G. Tomasco, Albert H. Olivencia-Yurvati, Steven A. Romero

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Abstract

There is a sustained reduction in arterial blood pressure that occurs in aged adults following exposure to acute leg heating. We tested the hypothesis that acute leg heating would decrease arterial blood pressure in aged adults secondary to sympathoinhibition. We exposed 13 young and 10 aged adults to 45 min of leg heating. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (radial nerve) was measured before leg heating (preheat) and 30 min after (recovery) and is expressed as burst frequency. Neurovascular transduction was examined by assessing the slope of the relation between muscle sympathetic nerve activity and leg vascular conductance measured at rest and during isometric handgrip exercise performed to fatigue. Arterial blood pressure was well maintained in young adults (preheat, 86 ± 6 mmHg vs. recovery, 88 ± 7 mmHg; P = 0.4) due to increased sympathetic nerve activity (preheat, 16 ± 7 bursts/min vs. recovery, 22 ± 10 bursts/min; P < 0.01). However, in aged adults, sympathetic nerve activity did not differ from preheat (37 ± 5 bursts/min) to recovery (33 ± 6 bursts/min, P = 0.1), despite a marked reduction in arterial blood pressure (preheat, 101 ± 7 mmHg vs. recovery, 94 ± 6 mmHg; P < 0.01). Neurovascular transduction did not differ from preheat to recovery for either age group (P > 0.1). The reduction in arterial blood pressure that occurs in aged adults following exposure to acute leg heating is mediated, in part, by a sympathoinhibitory effect that alters the compensatory neural response to hypotension. NEW & NOTEWORTHY There is a sustained reduction in arterial blood pressure that occurs in aged adults following exposure to acute leg heating. However, the neurovascular mechanisms mediating this response remain unknown. Our findings demonstrate for the first time that this reduction in arterial blood pressure is mediated, in part, by a sympathoinhibitory effect that alters the compensatory neural response to hypotension in aged adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H976-H984
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Volume318
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Blood pressure
  • Heat stress
  • Neurovascular transduction
  • Sympathetic nerve activity
  • Vasoconstriction

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