Sex difference in peripheral arterial response to cold exposure

Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Science, University of Tsukuba, Japan.
Circulation Journal (Impact Factor: 3.94). 08/2008; 72(8):1367-72. DOI: 10.1253/circj.72.1367
Source: PubMed


In Japan, there is a symptom commonly referred to as "Hie-sho", which is a feeling of coldness or chill in a particular part of the body, and it can sometimes be unendurable. This phenomenon is known to occur more frequently in women. The present study used synchrotron radiation micro-angiography (SRMA) to examine the hypothesis that this feeling is derived from a sex difference in the vascular response to coldness.
The hind limb of male (Group M) and female (Group F) Wistar rats was exposed to cold and the tissue temperature was recorded. SRMA with a spatial resolution of 26 microm was used to measure arterial diameter. The reduction in temperature brought on by cold exposure was significantly larger in Group F than in Group M (p<0.05). SRMA showed that the arteries were dilated by cold exposure in both groups; however, the percentage dilatation in response was statistically small in Group F (69+/-40%) compared with Group M (118+/-73%) (p<0.05).
Arteries in the limbs of female rats did not expand as much as those of the males in response to cold exposure, which may explain why women feel the cold more than men.

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    • "Constriction of the cutaneous blood vessels in response to cooling is a protective physiological response that acts to reduce the loss of body heat.[21] In contrast, deep arteries in the rat hind limb were dilated upon exposure to cold.[22] Expansion of deep arteries delivers warm blood to cooled extremities. "
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    • "The reason for this is unknown, but sex differences in vascular reaction to cold exposure might play a part. Vascular constriction due to cold exposure is greater in women than in men in both superficial and deep arteries.25–28 This augmented cold-induced vasoconstriction in women may be due to increased activity of adrenergic alpha2C-receptor, the expression of which is enhanced by estrogen.26 "
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