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Hypertension. 2012 Jan;59(1):98-104. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.176560. Epub 2011 Nov 21.

Relationship between sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity and arterial stiffness in elderly men and women.

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  • 1Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas, TX 75231, USA.


Previous human studies have shown that large-artery stiffness contributes to an age-related decrease in cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity. Whether this is also true with sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity is associated with the stiffness of baroreceptor segments (the carotid artery and the aorta) in elderly individuals and that sex affects this relationship. Sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity was assessed from the spontaneous changes in beat-by-beat diastolic pressure and corresponding muscle sympathetic nerve activity (microneurography) during supine rest in 30 men (mean±SEM: 69±1 years) and 31 women (68±1 years). Carotid artery stiffness (B-mode ultrasonography) and aortic stiffness (MRI) were also determined. We found that elderly women had lower sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity than elderly men (-2.33±0.25 versus -3.32±0.25 bursts · 100 beats(-1) · mm Hg(-1); P=0.007). β-Stiffness indices of the carotid artery and the aorta were greater in elderly women than in men (6.68±0.48 versus 5.10±0.50 and 4.03±0.47 versus 2.68±0.42; both P<0.050). Sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity was inversely correlated with carotid artery stiffness in both men and women (r=0.49 and 0.50; both P<0.05), whereas this relation was shifted in parallel upward (toward a reduced sensitivity) in women with no changes in the slope (0.26 versus 0.24 arbitrary units). Sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity and aortic stiffness showed similar trends. Thus, barosensory artery stiffness seems to be one independent determinant of sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity in elderly men and women. The lower sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity in elderly women may predispose them to an increased prevalence of hypertension.

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