The baroreflex function is seen decreased in young women with a family history of high blood pressure, predisposing them to hypertension later in life. The study reporting these findings are published in the Journal of Neurophysiology (JNP).
The baroreceptor reflex--sometimes referred to simply as the baroreflex--helps maintain a steady blood pressure by changing heart rate or resistance in the blood vessels. Baroreflex sensitivity measures how well the baroreflex is able to control blood pressure by changing heart rate. Reduced baroreflex sensitivity can be a marker for hypertension and heart disease.
‘The findings of the study help determine the risk of hypertension in young women who are at an increased risk of developing the condition during pregnancy and after menopause.’
Researchers studied baroreflex function in two groups of healthy young women. One group had at least one parent with hypertension and the other group did not. The research team measured the volunteers' blood pressure, heart rate and nerve activity during a period of rest and during a test called the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver is when a person tries to exhale with their mouth closed and nose blocked, which causes changes in blood pressure. Researchers measured heart rate responses during these changes in blood pressure to assess baroreflex sensitivity. The women with a family history of high blood pressure had reduced baroreflex sensitivity--both at rest and during exertion--compared with those without hypertensive parents.
"Demonstrating these findings in women is important given the increased rates of hypertension during pregnancy as well as after menopause. Additional longitudinal data are needed to understand the association between altered autonomic function in women with a family history of hypertension and the risk of preeclampsia and hypertension later in life," wrote the researchers.