1. In human sympathetic denervation due to primary autonomic failure, food and exercise in combination may produce a cumulative blood pressure lowering effect due to simultaneous splanchnic and skeletal muscle dilatation unopposed by corrective cardiovascular reflexes. We studied 12 patients with autonomic failure during and after 9 min of supine exercise, when fasted and after a liquid meal. Standing blood pressure was also measured before and after exercise.

2. When fasted, blood pressure fell during exercise from 162 ± 7/92 ± 4 to 129 ± 9/70 ± 5 mmHg (mean arterial pressure by 22 ± 5%), P < 0.0005. After the meal, blood pressure fell from 159 ± 8/88 ± 6 to 129 ± 6/70 ± 4 mmHg (mean arterial pressure by 22 ± 3%), P < 0.0001, and further during exercise to 123 ± 6/61 ± 3 mmHg (mean arterial pressure by 9 ± 3%), P < 0.01. The stroke distance—heart rate product, an index of cardiac output, did not change after the meal. During exercise, changes in the stroke distance—heart rate product were greater when fasted.

3. Resting forearm and calf vascular resistance were higher when fasted. Calf vascular resistance fell further after exercise when fasted. Resting superior mesenteric artery vascular resistance was lower when fed; 0.19 ± 0.02 compared with 032 ± 0.06, P < 0.05. After exercise, superior mesenteric artery vascular resistance had risen by 82%, to 0.53 ± 0.12, P < 0.05 (fasted) and by 47%, to 0.29 ± 0.05, P < 0.05 (fed).

4. On standing, absolute levels of blood pressure were higher when fasted [83 ± 7/52 ± 7 compared with 71 ± 2/41 ± 3 (fed), each P < 0.05]. Subjects were more symptomatic on standing post-exercise when fed.

5. In human sympathetic denervation, exercise in the fed state lowered blood pressure further than when fasted and worsened symptoms of postural hypotension.

This content is only available as a PDF.