Sympathetic regulation during thermal stress in human aging and disease.
Nine young (20–25 years) and ten older (60–71 years) men, matched for body fatness and surface area :mass ratio, underwent cold tests in summer and winter. The cold tests consisted of a 60-min exposure, wearing only swimming trunks, to an air temperature of 17°C (both seasons) and 12°C (winter only). Rectal (T re) and mean skin ( $$\overline T $$ sk) temperatures, metabolic heat production (M), systolic (BPS) and diastolic (BPd) blood pressures and heart rate (f c) were measured. During the equilibrium period (28°C air temperature) there were no age-related differences inT re, $$\overline T $$ sk, BPS, BPd, orf c regardless of season, although M of the older men was significantly lower (P<0.003). The decrease inT re and $$\overline T $$ sk (due to the marked decrease in six of the older men) and the increase in BPS and BPd were significantly greater (P<0.004) for the older men during all the cold exposures. The rate of increase inM was significantly greater (P<0.01) for the older group when exposed to 12°C in winter and 17°C in summer (due to the marked increase in four of the older men). This trend was not apparent during the 17°C exposure in winter. There was no age-related difference in fc during the exposures. Significant decreases inT re and $$\overline T $$ sk and increases inM, BPS and BPd during the 12°C exposure were observed for the older group (P< 0.003) compared to their responses during the 17°C exposure in winter. In contrast,T re,M, BPS in the young group were not affected as much by the colder environment. It was concluded that older men have more variable responses and some appear more or less responsive to mild and moderate cold air than young men.