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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2019 Aug 1;317(2):R280-R288. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00293.2018. Epub 2019 May 15.

Habitual cigarette smoking raises pressor responses to spontaneous bursts of muscle sympathetic nerve activity.

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Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute, Penn State Hershey, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania.


Smoking is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Prior reports showed a transient increase in blood pressure (BP) following a spontaneous burst of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA). We hypothesized that this pressor response would be accentuated in smokers. Using signal-averaging techniques, we examined the BP (Finometer) response to MSNA in 18 otherwise healthy smokers and 42 healthy nonsmokers during resting conditions. The sensitivities of baroreflex control of MSNA and heart rate were also assessed. The mean resting MSNA, heart rate, and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were higher in smokers than nonsmokers. The MAP increase following a burst of MSNA was significantly greater in smokers than nonsmokers (Δ3.4 ± 0.3 vs. Δ1.6 ± 0.1 mmHg, P < 0.001). The baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) of burst incidence, burst area, or total activity was not different between the two groups. However, cardiac BRS was lower in smokers than nonsmokers (14.6 ± 1.7 vs. 24.6 ± 1.5 ms/mmHg, P < 0.001). Moreover, the MAP increase following a burst was negatively correlated with the cardiac BRS. These observations suggest that habitual smoking in otherwise healthy individuals raises the MAP increase following spontaneous MSNA and that the attenuated cardiac BRS in the smokers was a contributing factor. We speculate that the accentuated pressor increase in response to spontaneous MSNA may contribute to the elevated resting BP in the smokers.


baroreceptor; hemodynamics; nervous system; smoker; sympathetic

[Available on 2020-08-01]

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