Lower blood pressure, but not muscle sympathetic nerve activity, in female compared to male adults during progressive central hypovolemia

Caitlin P. Jarrard, Claire E. Trotter, Craig G. Crandall, Joseph C. Watso, Mu Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Rapid adjustments in cardiac output and sympathetically-mediated vasoconstriction are critical to prevent blood pressure (BP) from falling during central hypovolemia. Female adults have a reduced ability to tolerate central hypovolemia (i.e., orthostatic hypotension), potentially due to reduced sympathetically-mediated vasoconstriction. However, there are minimal data evaluating sex differences in muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) during pre-syncopal limited central hypovolemia. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare autonomic cardiovascular responses during central hypovolemia between sexes. We tested the hypothesis that young healthy female, compared to male, adults would have a lower tolerance to progressive hypovolemia, accompanied by attenuated MSNA responses. METHODS: Twenty-eight female (28±8 years old, 170±7 cm, 75±8 kg, BMI: 26±3 kg/m2 ) and 31 male (age: 30±5 years old, height: 176±6 cm, mass: 82±9 kg, BMI: 26±3 kg/m2 ) adults completed a staged lower-body negative pressure (LBNP) protocol. The LBNP protocol started at minus 40 mmHg (LBNP40) and was further reduced by 10 mmHg every 3 minutes until the participant reached pre-syncope. MSNA (radial nerve), heart rate, and BP were collected continuously throughout the protocol. LBNP tolerance was quantified as a cumulative stress index (mmHg*min) and was compared between sexes using a two-tailed Mann-Whitney test. MSNA, heart rate, and BP responses during LBNP were compared between sexes (LBNP stage [repeated measure] x sex) using mixed-model analysis of variance tests. RESULTS: Consistent with prior findings, female adults had a lower tolerance to progressive LBNP (female: 513±283 vs. male: 929±357 mmHg*min, p<0.0001). Due to more females reaching pre-syncope sooner in the protocol, we compared responses during the early stages of LBNP. At these early LBNP stages (LBNP40 & LBNP50), significant interactions for heart rate and BP were observed (heart rate: p<0.0001, BP: p=0.0464). Post-hoc analyses revealed a significantly higher heart rate (98±20 vs. 82±15 bpm, p<0.0001) and lower mean BP (80±11 vs. 87±7 mmHg, p = 0.0343) in females at LBNP50. However, MSNA burst frequency responses were not different between sexes at the assessed time points (female vs. male; Baseline: 14±9 vs. 17±10, LBNP40: 29±14 vs. 34±12, LBNP50: 34±16 vs. 35±16 bursts/min; sex: p=0.2685, interaction: p=0.2334, stage: p<0.0001). DISCUSSION: Consistent with previous reports, this study demonstrated a lower tolerance to progressive central hypovolemia in female compared to male adults. However, contrary to our hypothesis, there was no difference in MSNA burst frequency between sexes, despite lower BP in female adults during the early stages of LBNP. These findings support the need for future studies to explore other mechanisms contributing to sex differences in tolerance to central hypovolemia.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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