Both antioxidant supplementation and exercise training have been identified as interventions which may reduce oxidative stress and thus improve cardiovascular health, but the interaction of these interventions on arterial BP (blood pressure) and vascular function has not been studied in older humans. Thus in six older (71±2 years) mildly hypertensive men, arterial BP was evaluated non-invasively at rest and during small muscle mass (knee-extensor) exercise with and without a pharmacological dose of oral antioxidants (vitamins C and E, and α-lipoic acid). The efficacy of the antioxidant intervention to decrease the plasma free radical concentration was verified via EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) spectroscopy, while changes in endothelial function in response to exercise training and antioxidant administration were evaluated via FMD (flow-mediated vasodilation). Subjects were re-evaluated after a 6-week aerobic exercise training programme. Prior to training, acute antioxidant administration did not change resting arterial BP or FMD. Six weeks of knee-extensor exercise training reduced systolic BP (from 150±8 mmHg at pre-training to 138±3 mmHg at post-training) and diastolic BP (from 91±5 mmHg at pre-training to 79±3 mmHg at post-training), and improved FMD (1.5±1 to 4.9±1% for pre- and post-training respectively). However, antioxidant administration after exercise training negated these improvements, returning subjects to a hypertensive state and blunting training-induced improvements in FMD. In conclusion, the paradoxical effects of these interventions suggest a need for caution when exercise and acute antioxidant supplementation are combined in elderly mildly hypertensive individuals.

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