Dehydration is known to decrease orthostatic tolerance and cause tachycardia, but little is known about the cardiovascular control mechanisms involved. To test the hypothesis that arterial baroreflex sensitivity increases during exercise-induced dehydration, we assessed arterial baroreflex responsiveness in 13 healthy subjects (protocol 1) at baseline (PRE-EX) and 1 h after (EX-DEH) 90 min of exercise to cause dehydration, and after subsequent intravenous rehydration with saline (EX-REH). Six of these subjects were studied a second time (protocol 2) with intravenous saline during exercise to prevent dehydration. We measured heart rate, central venous pressure and arterial pressure during all trials, and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) during the post-exercise trials. Baroreflex responses were assessed using sequential boluses of nitroprusside and phenylephrine (modified Oxford technique). After exercise in protocol 1 (EX-DEH), resting blood pressure was decreased and resting heart rate was increased. Cardiac baroreflex gain, assessed as the responsiveness of heart rate or R-R interval to changes in systolic pressure, was diminished in the EX-DEH condition (9.17 ± 1.06 ms mmHg-1 vs. PRE-EX: 18.68 ± 2.22 ms mmHg-1, P < 0.05). Saline infusion after exercise did not alter the increase in HR post-exercise or the decrease in baroreflex gain (EX-REH: 10.20 ± 1.43 ms mmHg-1; P > 0.10 vs. EX-DEH). Saline infusion during exercise (protocol 2) resulted in less of a post-exercise decrease in blood pressure and a smaller change in cardiac baroreflex sensitivity. Saline infusion caused a decrease in MSNA in protocol 1. We conclude that exercise-induced dehydration causes post-exercise changes in the baroreflex control of blood pressure that may contribute to, rather than offset, orthostatic intolerance.
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