The effects of rilmenidine and atenolol on mental stress, dynamic exercise and autonomic function in mild to moderate hypertension

V. Panfilov, A. D. Morris, R. Donnelly, M. Scemama, J. L. Reid

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The effects of 4 week treatment with rilmenidine or atenolol on tests of mental stress, dynamic exercise, autonomic function and psychometric tests were evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. After a 4 week placebo run-in, 12 patients with essential hypertension (blood pressure [BP] 160/95 ± 15/7 mmHg) received rilmenidine 1-2 mg day-1, and atenolol 50-100 mg day-1, each for 4 weeks, with a 4 week placebo wash-out between drug treatments. Both agents produced a comparable reduction in supine and erect BP. During the mental arithmetic test, BP and heart rate (HR) responses were similar for rilmenidine and atenolol. During bicycle exercise, the increase in HR was significantly greater after rilmenidine (+ 50 vs 41 beats min-1, P = 0.04). During recovery, the areas under the curve for diastolic BP (46450 vs 51400 mmHg s, P = 0.02) and HR (49445 vs 63597 beats min-1 s, P = 0.001) were significantly less with atenolol than rilmenidine. Neither rilmenidine nor atenolol affected mental performance as judged by arithmetic and psychomotor tests. Physiological responses to autonomic function tests (deep breathing, facial immersion, isometric handgrip and cold pressor) were preserved with both drugs. The standing to lying ratio was higher on atenolol (P = 0.01) and Valsalva ratio was higher on rilmenidine (P = 0.03). In conclusion, rilmenidine and atenolol exerted comparable antihypertensive effects both at rest and during mental and dynamic stress. Atenolol attenuated HR responses to dynamic exercise and the Valsalva manoeuvre; rilmenidine did not interfere with the physiological responses of BP and HR during autonomic function tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-569
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1995


  • atenolol
  • autonomic function
  • dynamic exercise
  • hypertension
  • mental stress
  • psychomotor tests
  • rilmenidine

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