Journal of Applied Physiology
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Cardiac and peripheral vasomotor factors contribute to the rapid pressor response at the onset of isometric handgrip exercise. We tested the hypothesis that age enhances the sympathetic and vasoconstrictor response at the onset of isometric handgrip exercise so that the pressor response is maintained, despite a diminished cardiac function. Twelve young and twelve older (24 ± 3 and 63 ± 8 yr) individuals performed 20-s isometric handgrip exercise at 30, 40, or 50% of maximal voluntary contraction force. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) was measured using microneurography. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) and cardiac output (Q) were assessed continuously by finger plethysmography and total peripheral resistance was calculated. MAP increased with the onset of handgrip; this increase was associated with handgrip intensity and was similar in both groups. Heart rate and Q increased with increasing handgrip intensity in both groups, but increases were greater in young vs. older individuals (age × handgrip intensity interaction, P < 0.05). MSNA burst frequency increased (P < 0.01), while MSNA burst incidence tended to increase (P = 0.06) with increasing handgrip intensity in both groups. The change in MSNA between baseline and handgrip, for both frequency and incidence, increased with increasing handgrip intensity for both groups. There was no effect of handgrip intensity or age on total peripheral resistance. The smaller heart rate and Q response during the first 20 s of handgrip exercise in older individuals was not accompanied by a greater sympathetic activation or vasoconstrictor response. However, increases in MAP were similar between groups, indicating that the pressor response at the onset of handgrip exercise is preserved with aging.
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