Impact of age and sex on neural cardiovascular responsiveness to cold pressor test in humans

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Prior longitudinal work suggests that blood pressure (BP) reactivity to the cold pressor test (CPT) helps predict hypertension; yet the impact of age and sex on hemodynamic and neural responsiveness to CPT remains equivocal. Forty-three young (21 ± 1yr, means ± SE) men (YM, n = 20) and women (YW, n = 23) and 16 older (60 ± 1yr) men (OM, n = 9) and women (OW, n = 7) participated in an experimental visit where continuous BP (finger plethysmography) and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; microneurography) were recorded during a 3- to 5-min baseline and 2-min CPT. Baseline mean arterial pressure (MAP) was greater in OM than in YM (92 ± 4 vs. 77 ± 1 mmHg, P < 0.01), but similar in women (P = 0.12). Baseline MSNA incidence was greater in OM [69 ± 6 bursts/100 heartbeats (hb)] than in OW (44 ± 7 bursts/100 hb, P = 0.02) and lower in young adults (YM: 17 ± 3 vs. YW: 16 ± 2 bursts/100 hb, P < 0.01), but similar across the sexes (P = 0.83). However, when exposed to the CPT, MSNA increased more rapidly in OW (Δ43 ± 6 bursts/100 hb; group × time, P = 0.01) compared with OM (Δ15 ± 3 bursts/100 hb) but was not different between YW (Δ30 ± 3 bursts/100 hb) and YM (Δ33 ± 4 bursts/100 hb, P = 1.0). There were no differences in MAP with CPT between groups (group × time, P = 0.33). These findings suggest that OW demonstrate a more rapid initial rise in MSNA responsiveness to a CPT compared with OM. This greater sympathetic reactivity in OW may be a contributing mechanism to the increased hypertension risk in postmenopausal women.

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American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology