Intermittent hypobaric hypoxia exposure does not cause sustained alterations in autonomic control of blood pressure in young athletes.

American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology

PubMedID: 17204591

Townsend NE, Shiller SM, Martini ER, Okazaki K, Shibata S, Truijens MJ, Rodríguez FA, Gore CJ, Stray-Gundersen J, Levine BD, Fu Q. Intermittent hypobaric hypoxia exposure does not cause sustained alterations in autonomic control of blood pressure in young athletes. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007;292(5):R1977-84.
Intermittent hypoxia (IH), which refers to the discontinuous use of hypoxia to reproduce some key features of altitude acclimatization, is commonly used in athletes to improve their performance. However, variations of IH are also used as a model for sleep apnea, causing sustained sympathoexcitation and hypertension in animals and, thus, raising concerns over the safety of this model. We tested the hypothesis that chronic IH at rest alters autonomic control of arterial pressure in healthy trained individuals. Twenty-two young athletes (11 men and 11 women) were randomly assigned to hypobaric hypoxia (simulated altitude of 4,000-5,500 m) or normoxia (500 m) in a double-blind and placebo-controlled design. Both groups rested in a hypobaric chamber for 3 h/day, 5 days/wk for 4 wk. In the sitting position, resting hemodynamics, including heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), cardiac output (Q(c), C(2)H(2) rebreathing), stroke volume (SV = Q(c)/HR), and total peripheral resistance (TPR = mean BP/Q(c)), were measured, dynamic cardiovascular regulation was assessed by spectral and transfer function analysis of cardiovascular variability, and cardiac-vagal baroreflex function was evaluated by a Valsalva maneuver, twice before and 3 days after the last chamber exposure. We found no significant differences in HR, BP, Q(c), SV, TPR, cardiovascular variability, or cardiac-vagal baroreflex function between the groups at any time. These results suggest that exposure to intermittent hypobaric hypoxia for 4 wk does not cause sustained alterations in autonomic control of BP in young athletes. In contrast to animal studies, we found no secondary evidence for sustained physiologically significant sympathoexcitation in this model.