Aging and aerobic fitness affect the contribution of noradrenergic sympathetic nerves to the rapid cutaneous vasodilator response to local heating

Garry Alan Tew, John M. Saxton, Markos Klonizakis, James Moss, Alan Dean Ruddock, Gary J. Hodges

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Sedentary aging results in a diminished rapid cutaneous vasodilator response to local heating. We investigated whether this diminished response was due to altered contributions of noradrenergic sympathetic nerves; assessing 1) the age-related decline and, 2) the effect of aerobic fitness. We measured skin blood flow (SkBF) (laser-Doppler flowmetry) in young (24±1 yr) and older (64±1 yr) endurance-trained and sedentary men (n=7 per group) at baseline and during 35 min of local skin heating to 42 °C at three forearm sites: 1) untreated; 2) bretylium tosylate (BT), preventing neurotransmitter release from noradrenergic sympathetic nerves; and 3) yohimbine and propranolol (YP), antagonising a- and ß-adrenergic receptors. SkBF was converted to cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) (SkBF/mean arterial pressure) and normalized to maximal CVC (%CVCmax) achieved by skin heating to 44 °C. Pharmacological agents were administered using microdialysis. In the young trained, the rapid vasodilator response was reduced at the BT and YP sites (P0.05) but treatment with BT did (P>0.05). Neither BT nor YP treatments affected the rapid vasodilator response in the older sedentary group (P>0.05). These data suggest that the age-related reduction in the rapid vasodilator response is due to an impairment of sympathetic-dependent mechanisms, which can be partly attenuated with habitual aerobic exercise. Rapid vasodilation involves noradrenergic neurotransmitters in young trained men, and non-adrenergic sympathetic cotransmitters (e.g., neuropeptide Y) in young sedentary and older trained men, possibly as a compensatory mechanism. Finally, in older sedentary men, the rapid vasodilation appears not to involve the sympathetic system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1264-1270
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2011

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