Differential effects of aging on the heart rate and blood pressure influences of arterial baroreceptors in awake rats

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The effect of aging on arterial baroreceptor control of heart rate and blood pressure was evaluated in unanesthetized normotensive rats aged 5-6 (young), 12-16 (adult) and 75—90 (old) weeks. Each rat was chronically implanted with arterial and venous femoral catheters and with bilateral balloon-in-cuff occluders around the common carotid arteries. Baroreceptor control of heart rate was assessed by the bradycardic and tachycardic response to intravenous boluses of phenylephrine and nitroprusside, respectively. Carotid baroreceptor control of blood pressure was assessed by a 12-s bilateral common carotid occlusion (CCO). All baroreflex responses were similar in young and adult rats. Compared with the young group, old rats showed a marked reduction of the bradycardic and tachycardic baroreflex response ( — 42% and —46%, respectively, P<0.05). The initial pressor responses to CCO were also impaired in the old animals (3 s: —63%, 6 s: —54%; both P<0.01), whereas the peak pressor response (9 and 12 s) was virtually identical in the young and old groups. The preservation of the peak pressor response to CCO in old rats was independent of chemoreceptor activation, aortic baroreceptors or cerebral ischemia. Thus, aging impairs baroreceptor control of heart rate but alters baroreceptor control of blood pressure, as assessed by the pressor response to CCO, only in its fast-developing component, leaving its longer-term component unaffected.

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