Cold-induced vasoconstriction at forearm and hand skin sites: the effect of age.

B.R.M. Kingma*, A.J. Frijns, W.H.M. Saris, A.A. van Steenhoven, W.D. van Marken Lichtenbelt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During mild cold exposure, elderly are at risk of hypothermia. In humans, glabrous skin at the hands is well adapted as a heat exchanger. Evidence exists that elderly show equal vasoconstriction due to local cooling at the ventral forearm, yet no age effects on vasoconstriction at hand skin have been studied. Here, we tested the hypotheses that at hand sites (a) elderly show equal vasoconstriction due to local cooling and (b) elderly show reduced response to noradrenergic stimuli. Skin perfusion and mean arterial pressure were measured in 16 young adults (Y: 18-28 years) and 16 elderly (E: 68-78 years). To study the effect of local vasoconstriction mechanisms local sympathetic nerve terminals were blocked by bretylium (BR). Baseline local skin temperature was clamped at 33 degrees C. Next, local temperature was reduced to 24 degrees C. After 15 min of local cooling, noradrenalin (NA) was administered to study the effect of neural vasoconstriction mechanisms. No significant age effect was observed in vasoconstriction due to local cooling at BR sites. After NA, vasoconstriction at the forearm showed a significant age effect; however, no significant age effect was found at the hand sites. [Change in CVC (% from baseline): Forearm Y: -76 +/- 3 vs. E: -60 +/- 5 (P < 0.01), dorsal hand Y: -74 +/- 4 vs. E: -72 +/- 4 (n.s.), ventral hand Y: -80 +/- 7 vs. E: -70 +/- 11 (n.s.)]. In conclusion, in contrast to results from the ventral forearm, elderly did not show a blunted response to local cooling and noradrenalin at hand skin sites. This indicates that at hand skin the noradrenergic mechanism of vasoconstriction is maintained with age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-921
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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