DOI: 10.1152/ajpheart.00226.2023 ISSN:

Aging in females is associated with changes in respiratory modulation of sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure

Zoe H. Adams, Hazel C. Blythe, Nisha Charkoudian, Timothy B. Curry, Michael J. Joyner, Adrian H. Kendrick, Angus K. Nightingale, Ana P. Abdala Sheikh, Emma C. Hart
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology

Sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) is tightly coupled with the respiratory cycle. In healthy human males, respiratory modulation of SNA does not change with age. However, it is unclear how this modulation is affected by age in females. We investigated whether respiratory sympathetic modulation is altered in healthy postmenopausal (PMF) versus premenopausal female (YF), and younger male (YM) adults, and determined its relationship to resting blood pressure. Muscle SNA (MSNA; microneurography), respiration (transducer belt), ECG and continuous blood pressure were measured in 12 YF, 13 PMF and 12 YM healthy volunteers. Respiratory modulation of MSNA was quantified during two phases of the respiratory cycle: mid-late expiration and inspiration/post-inspiration. All groups showed respiratory modulation of MSNA ( P<0.0005). There was an interaction between respiratory phase and group for MSNA (bursts/100 heartbeats ( P=0.004) and bursts/min ( P=0.029)), with smaller reductions in MSNA during inspiration observed in PMF versus the other groups. Respiratory modulation of blood pressure was also reduced in PMF versus YF (6 [2] versus 12 [9] mmHg, P=0.008) and YM (13 [13] mmHg, P=0.001, median [IQR]). The magnitude of respiratory sympathetic modulation was related to resting blood pressure in PMF only, such that individuals with less modulation had a greater resting blood pressure. The data indicate that aging in postmenopausal females is associated with less inspiratory inhibition of MSNA. This correlated with a higher resting blood pressure in PMF only. Thus, the reduced modulation of MSNA could contribute to the age-related rise in blood pressure that occurs in females.

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