Distension of peripheral veins in humans elicits a pressor and sympathoexcitatory response that is mediated through group III/IV skeletal muscle afferents. There is some evidence that autonomic reflexes mediated by these sensory fibers are blunted with increasing age, yet to date the venous distension reflex has only been studied in young adults. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that the venous distension reflex would be attenuated in middle-aged compared with young adults. Nineteen young (14 men/5 women, 25 ± 1 yr) and 13 middle-aged (9 men/4 women, 50 ± 2 yr) healthy normotensive participants underwent venous distension via saline infusion through a retrograde intravenous catheter in an antecubital vein during limb occlusion. Beat-by-beat blood pressure, muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), and model flow-derived cardiac output (Q), and total peripheral resistance (TPR) were recorded throughout the trial. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) increased during the venous distension in both young (baseline 83 ± 2, peak 94 ± 3 mmHg; P < 0.05) and middle-aged adults (baseline 88 ± 2, peak 103 ± 3 mmHg; P < 0.05). MSNA also increased in both groups [young: baseline 886 ± 143, peak 1,961 ± 242 arbitrary units (AU)/min; middle-aged: baseline 1,164 ± 225, peak 2,515 ± 404 AU/min; both P < 0.05]. TPR (P < 0.001), but not Q (P = 0.76), increased during the trial. However, the observed increases in blood pressure, MSNA, and TPR were similar between young and middle-aged adults. Additionally, no correlation was found between age and the response to venous distension (all P > 0.05). These findings suggest that peripheral venous distension elicits a pressor and sympathetic response in middle-aged adults similar to the response observed in young adults.
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