Sympathetic neural and cardiovascular responses during static handgrip exercise in women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy

Abigail S.L. Stickford, Yoshiyuki Okada, Stuart A. Best, Rosemary S. Parker, Benjamin D. Levine, Qi Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy are at greater risk for future cardiovascular events; however, the mechanisms for this increased risk are unknown. Evidence suggests that an exercise stimulus unmasks latent hypertensive tendencies, identifying individuals at the greatest risk for developing cardiovascular disease. The current study examined the hypothesis that women with a hypertensive pregnancy history exhibit an augmented exercise pressor response. Methods: Normotensive women with a history of healthy pregnancy (CON; n = 9) and hypertensive pregnancy (HP+; n = 12) were studied during the mid-luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Heart rate (HR), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP), and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were measured during a cold pressor test (CPT), and, following a sufficient period of recovery, during static handgrip to fatigue (SHG) and post-exercise circulatory arrest (PECA). Results: The BP, HR, and MSNA responses to the CPT were similar between groups. The SBP response to SHG and PECA was similar between groups, but DBP and HR were significantly greater in HP+ women (both p < 0.05). MSNA burst frequency, but not burst incidence or total activity, tended to be elevated in HP+ women during the stressor (peak Δ from baseline 31 ± 13 vs. 23 ± 13 bursts/min; p for group = 0.06). Conclusion: Despite no clinical signs of cardiovascular disease or hypertension, women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy display an enhanced cardiovascular reactivity to an exercise stimulus compared to women with a healthy pregnancy history. This response may be indicative of impaired cardiovascular control that precedes the clinical manifestation of hypertension or cardiovascular events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-405
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Blood pressure control
  • Exercise pressor response
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • Preeclampsia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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