1. Cardiovascular responses to three different interventions, namely the Valsalva manoeuvre, deep breathing and a cold stimulus on the face, were studied in two ethnic groups (European and Bangladeshi) that have been shown to differ in the prevalence of hypertensive-vascular disease. The data obtained consisted of systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean blood pressure, heart rate measured by using a beat-by-beat non-invasive blood pressure monitor (the Finapres), forearm blood flow determined by venous occlusion plethysmography, and calculated forearm vascular resistance.

2. The resting haemodynamic status was similar in European and Bangladeshi subjects. However, Bangladeshi subjects showed a greater increase in heart rate, but only after 20 s into the Valsalva manoeuvre, and greater overshoots in mean blood pressure after the manoeuvre than the European subjects. Furthermore, after cold face stimulation the fall in forearm vascular resistance to baseline levels was delayed in Bangladeshi subjects relative to that in the European subjects.

3. There were no inter-group differences in the reflex bradycardia relative to mean blood pressure or in the cardiac baroreflex sensitivity estimated from systolic blood pressure and pulse interval after the Valsalva manoeuvre. In addition, values for the mean difference between maximum and minimum pulse intervals during deep breathing did not differ in Bangladeshi and European subjects.

4. These findings together suggest that, although cardiac vagal reflex responses appear similar in the two groups, sympatho-adrenal influences on the heart and vasculature may be greater in Bangladeshi subjects than in European subjects.

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