The influence of age on limb vasodilator capacity in women is unclear. The objectives of this study were to characterize and compare age-associated changes in forearm and calf peak vascular conductance (VCpeak; a functional index of arterial structure) in women and to identify physiological characteristics predictive of variation in limb-specific VCpeak. Peak conductance (plethysmographic flow/mean arterial pressure), VCpeak of the forearm (forearm VCpeak), and calf (calf VCpeak) after 10 min of arterial occlusion were measured in 58 healthy, normally active women aged 21-79 yr. Aerobic capacity (cycle peak oxygen uptake), arterial health (pulse-wave velocity, ankle-brachial index), total cholesterol, limb-specific tissue composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), and isometric strength (handgrip, plantar flexion) were also assessed. The relative decline in calf VCpeak with age (-6.8% per decade, P < 0.001) was greater than the forearm (-4.4% per decade, P = 0.004), in contrast to results previously reported for men (forearm decline > calf decline). Limb VC peak per kilogram muscle declined with age in the calf (-6.0% per decade; P = 0.002), but not the forearm (P = 0.12). Age, cholesterol, and regional tissue composition were significant predictors of peak conductance in both limbs; however, age was a stronger predictor of peak conductance in the calf. These results suggest that healthy aging is associated with a linear decline in limb vasodilator capacity in women, but the magnitude of this effect is region specific. Further research will be required to determine whether the decline in lower extremity vasodilator capacity with age explains diminished exercising leg vasodilation in older women.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)