Abstract 529: Muscle Sympathetic Nerve Activity is Higher in Winter than Other Seasons

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Epidemiological data suggest that blood pressure tends to be higher in winter and lower in summer, particularly in the elderly. Moreover, hospitalization and mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease have higher rates in winter than summer. Whether autonomic adjustment including muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) varies with season is unclear. To test the hypothesis that resting MSNA varies along the seasons, we retrospectively analyzed the supine baseline (6 min) MSNA and heart rate (from ECG) of 57 healthy subjects (33M, 24F, 29 ± 1 yrs, range 22-64 yrs) from studies in our laboratory (room temperature ~23 °C). Each of these subjects from central Pennsylvania was studied during 2 or more seasons (total 231 visits). A linear-mixed effects model, which is an extension of the analysis of variance model accounting for repeated measurements (i.e. season) per subject, was used to assess the association of season with the cardiovascular outcomes. The Tukey-Kramer procedure was used to account for multiple comparisons testing between the seasons. MSNA burst rate in winter (21.3 ± 1.0 burst/min) was significantly greater than in summer (13.7 ± 1.0 burst/min, P < 0.001), spring (17.5 ± 1.6 burst/min, P = 0.04) and fall (17.0 ± 1.2 burst/min, P < 0.002). There was no significant difference in MSNA in other comparisons (spring vs. summer, P = 0.12; spring vs. fall, P = 0.99; summer vs. fall, P = 0.054). Heart rate (63.6 ± 1.1 vs. 60.8 ± 1.2 beats/min, P = 0.048) was significantly greater in winter compared to summer. Blood pressure (automated sphygmomanometry of the brachial artery) was not significantly different between seasons. The results suggest that baseline sympathetic nerve activity varies along the seasons, with peak levels evident in winter. We speculate that the seasonal MSNA variation may contribute to seasonal variations in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

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