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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Apr;84(4):1151-7.

Catecholamine response during 12 days of high-altitude exposure (4, 300 m) in women.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


We have previously demonstrated that acclimatization to high altitude elicits increased sympathetic nerve activity in men. The purpose of this investigation was to determine 1) whether women respond in a similar manner as found previously in men and 2) the extent to which menstrual cycle phase influences this response. Sixteen eumenorrheic women (age, 23.6 +/- 1.2 yr; weight, 56.2 +/- 4. 3 kg) were studied at sea level and during 12 days of high-altitude exposure (4,300 m) in either their follicular (F; n = 11) or luteal (L; n = 5) phase. Twenty-four-hour urine samples were collected at sea level and during each day at altitude. Catecholamines were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Compared with sea-level values, urinary norepinephrine excretion increased significantly during altitude exposure, peaking on days 4-6. Thereafter, levels remained constant throughout the duration of altitude exposure. The magnitude of this increase was similar between the F (138%) and L (93%) phase. Urinary epinephrine levels were elevated on day 2 of altitude exposure compared with sea-level values for both F and L subjects (93%). Thereafter, urinary epinephrine excretion returned to sea-level values, and no differences were found between F and L subjects. Plasma catecholamine content was consistent with urinary values and supports the concept of an elevation in sympathetic activity over time at altitude. Mean and diastolic blood pressure as well as heart rate adjustments to high altitude correlated significantly with urinary norepinephrine excretion rates. It was concluded that 1) urinary and plasma catecholamine responses to 12 days of high-altitude exposure in women are similar to those previously documented to occur for men; 2) whereas no differences in catecholamine levels were observed between F- and L-phase assignments, for a given urinary norepinephrine excretion rate, blood pressure and heart rates were lower for F vs. L subjects; and 3) several cardiovascular adaptations associated with high-altitude exposure correlated with 24-h urinary norepinephrine excretion rates and thus sympathetic nerve activity.

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