Impaired defense of core temperature in aged humans during mild cold stress

David W. DeGroot, W. Larry Kenney

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102 Scopus citations

Abstract

Aged humans often exhibit an impaired defense of core temperature during cold stress. However, research documenting this response has typically used small subject samples and strong cold stimuli. The purpose of this study was to determine the responses of young and older subjects, matched for anthropometric characteristics, during mild cold stress. Thirty-six young (YS; 23 ± 1 years, range 18-30) and 46 older (OS; 71 ± 1 years, range 65-89) subjects underwent a slow transient cold air exposure from a thermoneutral baseline, during which esophageal (Tes) and mean skin temperatures (T sk), O2 consumption, and skin blood flow (SkBF; laser-Doppler flowmetry) were measured. Cold exposure was terminated at the onset of visible sustained shivering. Net metabolic heat production (M net), heat debt, predicted change in midregion temperature (ΔTmid), and tissue insulation (It) were calculated. Cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) was calculated as laser-Doppler flux/mean arterial pressure and expressed as percent change from baseline (ΔCVC %base). There were no baseline group differences for Tes, but OS Mnet was lower (OS: 38.0 ± 1.1; YS: 41.9 ± 1.1 W·m-2, P < 0.05). Tes was well maintained in YS but fell progressively in OS (P < 0.01 for all timepoints after 35 min). The skin vasoconstrictor response to mild cold stress was attenuated in OS (42 ± 3 vs. 53 ± 4 ΔCVC%base, P < 0.01). There were no group differences for Tsk or It, while M net remained lower in OS (P < 0.05). The ΔTmid did not account for the drop in Tes in OS. Healthy aged humans failed to maintain Tes; however, the mechanisms underlying this response are not clear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R103-R108
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Volume292
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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