1.To assess the effects of acute exposure to high altitude on baroreceptor function in man we evaluated the effects of baroreceptor activation on R–R interval and blood pressure control at high altitude. We measured the low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) components in R–R, non-invasive blood pressure and skin blood flow, and the effect of baroreceptor modulation by 0.1-Hz sinusoidal neck suction. Ten healthy sea-level natives and three high-altitude native, long-term sea-level residents were evaluated at sea level, upon arrival at 4970 ;m and 1 week later.
2.Compared with sea level, acute high altitude decreased R–R and increased blood pressure in all subjects [sea-level natives: R–R from 1002±45 to 775±57 ;ms, systolic blood pressure from 130±3 to 150±8 ;mmHg; high-altitude natives: R–R from 809±116 to 749±47 ;ms, systolic blood pressure from 110±12 to 125±11 ;mmHg (P< 0.05 for all)]. One week later systolic blood pressure was similar to values at sea level in all subjects, whereas R–R remained elevated in sea-level natives. The low-frequency power in R–R and systolic blood pressure increased in sea-level natives [R–R-LF from 47±8 to 65±10% (P< 0.05), systolic blood pressure-LF from 1.7±0.3 to 2.6±0.4 ln-mmHg2 (P< 0.05)], but not in high-altitude natives (R–R-LF from 32±13 to 38±19%, systolic blood pressure-LF from 1.9±0.5 to 1.7±0.8 ln-mmHg2). The R–R-HF decreased in sea-level natives but not in high-altitude natives, and no changes occurred in systolic blood pressure-HF. These changes remained evident 1 week later. Skin blood flow variability and its spectral components decreased markedly at high altitude in sea-level natives but showed no changes in high-altitude natives. Neck suction significantly increased the R–R- and systolic blood pressure-LF in all subjects at both sea level and high altitude.
3.High altitude induces sympathetic activation in sea-level natives which is partially counteracted by active baroreflex. Despite long-term acclimatization at sea level, high-altitude natives also maintain active baroreflex at high altitude but with lower sympathetic activation, indicating a persisting high-altitude adaptation which may be genetic or due to baroreflex activity not completely lost by at least 1 year's sea-level residence.