1. There is an increase in circulating levels of vasoconstrictive hormones and an alteration in baroreceptor responsiveness with aging. The role of changes in endothelium-dependent and -independent vasoconstrictive hormones in relation to age and gender, with simultaneous assessment of autonomic balance in response to head-up tilt, has been incompletely studied.

2. Sixteen young [25 ± 3 years (mean ± SEM)] and 16 older normal volunteers (68 ± 7 years) underwent a 30 min head-up tilt test at 60°. Haemodynamics were measured every 5 min and blood samples for neurohormone measurement were drawn at baseline, 5, 10, 15 and 30 min into the test. Heart rate variability was analysed in 5 min segments at the baseline, and during the test. The younger subjects exhibited a greater increase in heart rate and diastolic blood pressure, despite lower absolute levels of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and endothelin-1. Analysis of heart rate variability yielded a decrease in both high- and low-frequency bands in the aged; power at low-frequency decreased only in the young subjects. The age-related differences in blood pressure and noradrenaline levels were markedly attenuated in the female subjects. In addition, endothelin-1 levels and power spectral measurements at low frequency were the lowest in younger females throughout the tilt.

3. Despite attenuated cardiovascular response to tilt, both systemic adrenergic ‘drive’ and endothelin-1 levels increase in parallel with aging. Thus, endothelium-dependent and -independent vasoconstrictive hormone levels increase with age in the resting state and in response to neurohumoral stimulation in humans.

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