Hemodynamic effects of unloading the old heart

Amit Nussbacher, Gary Gerstenblith, Frances C. O'Connor, Lewis C. Becker, David A. Kass, Steven P. Schulman, Jerome L. Fleg, Edward G. Lakatta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A reduction in upright exercise capacity with aging in healthy individuals is accompanied by acute left ventricular (LV) dilatation and impaired LV ejection. To determine whether acute vasodilator administration would improve LV ejection during exercise, sodium nitroprusside (NP) was administered to 16 healthy subjects, ages 64-84 yr, who had been screened for the absence of coronary heart disease by prior exercise thallium scintigraphy. Infusion of NP (0.3-1.0 μg · kg-1 · min-1), titrated to reduce the resting mean arterial pressure 10% (and eliminate the late augmentation of carotid arterial pressure), increased LV ejection fraction (EF) compared with placebo during upright, maximal graded cycle exercise at all work rates and permitted an equivalent stroke volume and stroke work from a smaller end-diastolic volume. The maximum increase in exercise EF in older subjects during NP infusion was equal to that in healthy, younger (22-39 yr) control subjects. The maximum cycle work rate and cardiac index were unchanged compared with placebo. Thus combined preload and afterload reduction with NP in older individuals improves overall LV ejection phase function: exercise LV stroke work is reduced, EF is increased, and stroke volume is maintained in the setting of a reduced ventricular size. These findings suggest that at least some of the age-associated decline in cardiac function during maximal aerobic exercise may be secondary to adverse loading conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1863-H1871
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5 46-5
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Afterload
  • Aging
  • Exercise hemodynamics
  • Myocardial function
  • Preload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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