Whole-body heat stress reduces orthostatic tolerance via a yet to be identified mechanism(s). The reduction in central blood volume that accompanies heat stress may contribute to this phenomenon. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that acute volume expansion prior to the application of an orthostatic challenge attenuates heat stress-induced reductions in orthostatic tolerance. In seven normotensive subjects (age, 40 ± 10 years: mean ± s.d.), orthostatic tolerance was assessed using graded lower-body negative pressure (LBNP) until the onset of symptoms associated with ensuing syncope. Orthostatic tolerance (expressed in cumulative stress index units, CSI) was determined on each of 3 days, with each day having a unique experimental condition: normothermia, whole-body heating, and whole-body heating + acute volume expansion. For the whole-body heating + acute volume expansion experimental day, dextran 40 was rapidly infused prior to LBNP sufficient to return central venous pressure to pre-heat stress values. Whole-body heat stress alone reduced orthostatic tolerance by ∼80% compared to normothermia (938 ± 152 versus 182 ± 57 CSI; mean ± s.e.m., P < 0.001). Acute volume expansion during whole-body heating completely ameliorated the heat stress-induced reduction in orthostatic tolerance (1110 ± 69 CSI, P < 0.001). Although heat stress results in many cardiovascular and neural responses that directionally challenge blood pressure regulation, reduced central blood volume appears to be an underlying mechanism responsible for impaired orthostatic tolerance in the heat-stressed human.
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