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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2001 Nov;281(5):H2028-35.

Gender affects sympathetic and hemodynamic response to postural stress.

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  • 1Neurovascular Research Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7.
  • 2PA St U Coll Med, Hershey


We tested the hypothesis that differences in sympathetic reflex responses to head-up tilt (HUT) between males (n = 9) and females (n = 8) were associated with decrements in postural vasomotor responses in women. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; microneurography), heart rate, stroke volume (SV; Doppler), and blood pressure (Finapres) were measured during a progressive HUT protocol (5 min at each of supine, 20 degrees, 40 degrees, and 60 degrees ). MSNA and hemodynamic responses were also measured during the cold pressor test (CPT) to examine nonbaroreflex neurovascular control. SV was normalized to body surface area (SV(i)) to calculate the index of cardiac output (Q(i)), and total peripheral resistance (TPR). During HUT, heart rate increased more in females versus males (P < 0.001) and SV(i) and Q(i) decreased similarly in both groups. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) increased to a lesser extent in females versus males in the HUT (P < 0.01) but increases in TPR during HUT were similar. MSNA burst frequency was lower in females versus males in supine (P < 0.03) but increased similarly during HUT. Average amplitude/burst increased in 60 degrees HUT for males but not females. Both males and females demonstrated an increase in MAP as well as MSNA burst frequency, mean burst amplitude, and total MSNA during the CPT. However, compared with females, males demonstrated a greater neural response (DeltaTotal MSNA) due to a larger increase in mean burst amplitude (P < 0.05). Therefore, these data point to gender-specific autonomic responses to cardiovascular stress. The different MSNA response to postural stress between genders may contribute importantly to decrements in blood pressure control during HUT in females.

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