Aging affects the cardiovascular responses to cold stress in humans

Kari L. Hess, Thad E. Wilson, Charity L. Sauder, Zhaohui Gao, Chester A. Ray, Kevin D. Monahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Cardiovascular-related mortality peaks during cold winter months, particularly in older adults. Acute physiological responses, such as increases in blood pressure, in response to cold exposure may contribute to these associations. To determine whether the blood pressure-raising effect (pressor response) of non-internal body temperature-reducing cold stress is greater with age, we measured physiological responses to 20 min of superficial skin cooling, via water-perfused suit, in 12 younger [25 ± 1 (SE) yr old] and 12 older (65 ± 2 yr old) adults. We found that superficial skin cooling elicited an increase in blood pressure from resting levels (pressor response; P < 0.05) in younger and older adults. However, the magnitude of this pressor response (systolic and mean blood pressure) was more than twofold higher in older adults (P < 0.05 vs. younger adults). The magnitude of the pressor response was similar at peripheral (brachial) and central (estimated in the aorta) measurement sites. Regression analysis revealed that aortic pulse wave velocity, a measure of central arterial stiffness obtained before cooling, was the best predictor of the increased pressor response to superficial skin cooling in older adults, explaining ∼63% of its variability. These results indicate that there is a greater pressor response to non-internal body temperature-reducing cold stress with age in humans that may be mediated by increased levels of central arterial stiffness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1076-1082
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Arterial stiffness
  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse wave velocity
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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