Key points: Impairments in both central sympathetic and peripheral microvascular function contribute to blunted reflex cutaneous vasodilatation during heat stress in healthy older adults. Hypercholesterolaemia is associated with decrements in neurovascular function; however, little is known about the impact of hypercholesterolaemia on the integrated responses to heat stress. Further, whether chronic statin therapy alters skin sympathetic outflow or its relation to cutaneous vascular conductance during heat stress is unknown. We demonstrate that reflex cutaneous vasodilatation is impaired in older hypercholesterolaemic adults but not in formerly hypercholesterolaemic adults currently treated with a statin compared to age-matched controls. Additionally, chronic statin treatment-induced improvements in reflex vasodilatation are mediated, in part, by increases in end-organ responsiveness to efferent sympathetic outflow during whole-body heating. These data add to the growing body of literature substantiating the beneficial pleiotropic neurovascular effects of chronic statin treatment and provide further support for the use of statins to confer additional cardioprotective benefits in older adults. Abstract: Attenuated reflex cutaneous vasodilatation in healthy human ageing is mediated by alterations in both central (sympathetic outflow) and peripheral (microvascular endothelial) function. Hypercholesterolaemia is associated with further impairments in neurovascular function. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) improve cutaneous endothelium-dependent dilatation; however, whether statin therapy alters skin sympathetic nervous system activity (SSNA) or its relation to cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) during passive heat stress is unknown. We hypothesized that (1) hypercholesterolaemic older adults would demonstrate blunted increases in both SSNA and CVC during passive heating and (2) chronic statin treatment would improve the response range and sensitivity of the SSNA:CVC relation. Reflex vasodilatation in response to a 1.0°C rise in oral temperature (Tor; water perfused suit) was induced in 13 healthy normocholesterolaemic adults (62 ± 2 years; LDL = 113 ± 7 mg/dl), 10 hypercholesterolaemic adults (60 ± 1 years; LDL = 183 ± 2 mg/dl), and 10 previously hypercholesterolaemic adults (64 ± 1 years; LDL = 102 ± 2 mg/dl) treated with lipophilic statin (10–40 mg daily). SSNA (peroneal microneurography) and red cell flux (laser-Doppler flowmetry) in the innervated dermatome (dorsum of foot) were continuously measured. Reflex vasodilatation was blunted in hypercholesterolaemic adults, but not in statin-treated adults, compared to normocholesterolaemic adults (at ∆Tor = 1.0°C: normal = 36 ± 1%CVCmax, high = 32 ± 1%CVCmax, statin = 38 ± 1%CVCmax; P < 0.01). ∆SSNA was not different (at ∆Tor = 1.0°C: normal: ∆ = 393 ± 96%, high: ∆ = 311 ± 120%, statin: ∆ = 256 ± 90%; P = 0.11). The slope of the SSNA:CVC relation was blunted in hypercholesterolaemic adults (0.02 ± 0.03%CVCmax/%baseline) compared to both normocholesterolaemic (0.09 ± 0.02%CVCmax/%baseline; P = 0.024) and statin-treated (0.12 ± 0.05%CVCmax/%baseline; P = 0.03) adults. Chronic statin treatment improves reflex cutaneous vasodilatation in formerly hypercholesterolaemic older adults by increasing end-organ responsiveness to sympathetic outflow during passive heat stress.
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