Authors:
C Sachse Gravitational Physiology and Medicine Research Unit, Physiology Division, Otto Loewi Center of Research in Vascular Biology, Immunity and Inflammation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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I Trozic Gravitational Physiology and Medicine Research Unit, Physiology Division, Otto Loewi Center of Research in Vascular Biology, Immunity and Inflammation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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B Brix Gravitational Physiology and Medicine Research Unit, Physiology Division, Otto Loewi Center of Research in Vascular Biology, Immunity and Inflammation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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A Roessler Gravitational Physiology and Medicine Research Unit, Physiology Division, Otto Loewi Center of Research in Vascular Biology, Immunity and Inflammation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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N Goswami Gravitational Physiology and Medicine Research Unit, Physiology Division, Otto Loewi Center of Research in Vascular Biology, Immunity and Inflammation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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Background

Premenopausal women show a higher incidence of orthostatic hypotension than age-matched men, but there are limited data available on sex differences in cardiovascular responses to orthostatic challenge in healthy older persons. We investigated sex differences in hemodynamic and autonomic responses to orthostatic challenge in healthy older males and females.

Materials and methods

Fourteen older healthy women and 10 age-matched men performed a sit-to-stand test (5 min of sitting followed by 5 min of standing). A Task Force® Monitor continuously measured the following beat-to-beat hemodynamic parameters: heart rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean blood pressure, stroke index, cardiac index, and total peripheral resistance index. Cardiac autonomic activity, low-frequency (LF: 0.04–0.15 Hz) normalized (LFnuRRI) and high-frequency (HF: 0.15–0.4 Hz) normalized (HFnuRRI) components, and the ratio between LF and HF power (LF/HF) were calculated using power spectral analysis of heart rate variability.

Results

Across all hemodynamic parameters, there were no significant differences between the sexes at baseline and during standing. LFnuRRI (median: 70.2 vs. 52.3, p < 0.05) and LF/HF ratio (median: 2.4 vs. 1.1, p < 0.05) were significantly higher, whereas HFnuRRI (median: 29.8 vs. 47.7, p < 0.05) was lower among women at baseline. All other heart rate variability measures did not differ between the sexes.

Conclusions

The data indicate that older women showed higher sympathetic and lower parasympathetic activity at rest compared to age-matched men. These results are contradictory to the observations from previous studies, which showed a reduced sympathetic and enhanced parasympathetic activity in women in all ages. Further studies are required to determine the underlying mechanisms contributing to higher incidence of orthostatic hypotension in older females.

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