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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Sep;85(3):1092-102.

O2 extraction maintains O2 uptake during submaximal exercise with beta-adrenergic blockade at 4,300 m.

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Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research Laboratory, Division of Cardiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA.


Whole body O2 uptake (VO2) during maximal and submaximal exercise has been shown to be preserved in the setting of beta-adrenergic blockade at high altitude, despite marked reductions in heart rate during exercise. An increase in stroke volume at high altitude has been suggested as the mechanism that preserves systemic O2 delivery (blood flow x arterial O2 content) and thereby maintains VO2 at sea-level values. To test this hypothesis, we studied the effects of nonselective beta-adrenergic blockade on submaximal exercise performance in 11 normal men (26 +/- 1 yr) at sea level and on arrival and after 21 days at 4,300 m. Six subjects received propranolol (240 mg/day), and five subjects received placebo. At sea level, during submaximal exercise, cardiac output and O2 delivery were significantly lower in propranolol- than in placebo-treated subjects. Increases in stroke volume and O2 extraction were responsible for the maintenance of VO2. At 4,300 m, beta-adrenergic blockade had no significant effect on VO2, ventilation, alveolar PO2, and arterial blood gases during submaximal exercise. Despite increases in stroke volume, cardiac output and thereby O2 delivery were still reduced in propranolol-treated subjects compared with subjects treated with placebo. Further reductions in already low levels of mixed venous O2 saturation were responsible for the maintenance of VO2 on arrival and after 21 days at 4,300 m in propranolol-treated subjects. Despite similar workloads and VO2, propranolol-treated subjects exercised at greater perceived intensity than subjects given placebo at 4,300 m. The values for mixed venous O2 saturation during submaximal exercise in propranolol-treated subjects at 4,300 m approached those reported at simulated altitudes >8,000 m. Thus beta-adrenergic blockade at 4,300 m results in significant reduction in O2 delivery during submaximal exercise due to incomplete compensation by stroke volume for the reduction in exercise heart rate. Total body VO2 is maintained at a constant level by an interaction between mixed venous O2 saturation, the arterial O2-carrying capacity, and hemodynamics during exercise with acute and chronic hypoxia.

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