The purpose of this study was to compare reflex control of limb blood flow in healthy young (Y; 26 ± 2 yr) and older (O; 61 ± 2 yr) men during whole body cooling under resting conditions. To better isolate the effect of chronological age, the two age groups (n = 6 per group) were closely matched for maximal oxygen uptake, body surface area, skinfold thickness, and fat- free weight. Subjects sat in an environmentally controlled chamber clad in standardized (0.6-clo) light cotton clothing at a dry-bulb temperature (T(db)) of 28°C. After 30 min, T(db) was decreased by 2°C every 5 min until T(db) - 10°C, where it was held constant for the remainder of the 120-min session. Esophageal and mean skin temperatures were monitored continuously. Forearm blood flow (FBF) was measured every 5 min by venous occlusion plethysmography by using a mercury-in Silastic strain gauge while arm temperature between the wrist and elbow was clamped at 37.2 ± 0.1°C by localized warm air beating. In this way, limb vasoconstriction was driven solely by thermoregulatory reflexes and not by direct effects of localized cooling. Mean skin temperature decreased at a similar rate and to a similar extent (by ~6°C over a 2-h period) in both age groups, whereas esophageal temperature was relatively unaffected. In response to the local heating, the Y group maintained a significantly higher FBF than did the O group during the initial 30 min but decreased FBF during the cooling phase at a greater rate and to a greater extent than did the O group, leading to a significantly lower FBF during the final 30 min (at T(db) 10°C). Because there was no age difference in the mean arterial pressure response, similar effects of age were seen on forearm vascular conductance (FBF/mean arterial pressure). It was concluded that older men have a diminished reflex limb vasoconstrictor response to skin cooling. Furthermore, this difference in control of peripheral blood flow appears to be related to age per se; i.e., it is not a reflection of age-related differences in maximal oxygen uptake or body composition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)