Influence of age on arterial baroreflex inhibition of sympathetic nerve activity in healthy adult humans.
Resting levels of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) increase markedly with age in healthy adult humans. An age-related reduction in arterial baroreflex inhibition of MSNA could contribute to these elevations. To test this hypothesis, we measured MSNA using peroneal microneurography in young (age, 25 +/- 1 yr; n = 8) and older (69 +/- 1 yr; n = 7) healthy normotensive men before (baseline control) and during graded constant infusion of phenylephrine hydrochloride (0.5-2.0 microgram . kg-1. min-1) that produced a sustained approximately 10-mmHg increase in arterial blood pressure. Central venous pressure was controlled at baseline levels (+/-1 mmHg) using lower body negative pressure. Resting MSNA was approximately 95% higher in the older compared with the young subjects (43 +/- 5 vs. 22 +/- 3 bursts/min; P < 0.05). However, arterial baroreflex MSNA inhibitory responsiveness was similar in the older compared with the young subjects (254 +/- 112 vs. 259 +/- 40 arbitrary integration units/mmHg, respectively), although the percent reduction in MSNA was smaller in the older men (8.9 +/- 0.7 vs. 5.2 +/- 1.1%/mmHg), due to their elevated baseline levels. The reflex increase in the R-R interval was not different in the two groups (13 +/- 10 vs. 16 +/- 7 ms/mmHg). In summary, our findings suggest that arterial baroreflex inhibition of MSNA is preserved with age in healthy normotensive adult humans. As such, this mechanism does not appear to contribute to the age-related rise in tonic MSNA.