High Stress Responsivity Predicts Later Blood Pressure Only in Combination With Positive Family History and High Life Stress
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Abstract—High cardiovascular responsivity to stressors has not consistently improved prediction of later blood pressure increases beyond the predictive effects of baseline pressure. Animal models suggest that genetic susceptibility to hypertension and frequent stress exposure are important modulating factors in stress-related hypertension. Thus in 103 men originally tested at age 18 to 22 years and reassessed 10 years later, interactive effects of genetic susceptibility (defined as 1 or more hypertensive parents) with high stress responsivity (defined as top 25% on the basis of blood pressure and cardiac responses during both reaction time and cold pressor tasks) were examined in relation to follow-up systolic and diastolic levels and to change in blood pressure status from normal (diastolic<80 mm Hg) to marginally elevated (diastolic 85 to 95 mm Hg). Men with the combination of high stress response and hypertensive parents demonstrated higher systolic (P<0.05) and diastolic levels (P<0.05) at follow-up, and they showed a 7-fold increase (7.5, 95% confidence intervals 2.3, 24.3; P<0.001) in relative risk of change in blood pressure status versus men with no family history and a 3-fold increase (3.8, confidence intervals 1.5, 9.6; P<0.004) versus less stress-responsive men who also had hypertensive parents. In 65 men who also provided ratings of daily stress, family history×stress responsivity×daily stress interactions were significant in predicting follow-up systolic and diastolic levels (P<0.006 and 0.03, respectively), with highest pressure levels seen when high life stress was reported by high stress responders and/or men with hypertensive parents. In conclusion, results suggest that stress responsivity as a long-term predictor is modulated by both genetic and environmental factors.
- Received October 9, 1998.
- Revision received December 4, 1998.
- Accepted January 26, 1999.