Anxiety and hostility are associated with reduced baroreflex sensitivity and increased beat-to-beat blood pressure variability.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether psychological factors are associated with heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure variability (BPV), and baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) among healthy middle-aged men and women. A population-based sample of 71 men and 79 women (35-64 years of age) was studied. Five-minute supine recordings of ECG and beat-to-beat photoplethysmographic finger systolic arterial pressure and diastolic arterial pressure were obtained during paced breathing. Power spectra were computed using a fast Fourier transform for low-frequency (0.04-0.15 Hz) and high-frequency (0.15-0.40 Hz) powers. BRS was calculated by cross-spectral analysis of R-R interval and systolic arterial pressure variabilities. Psychological factors were evaluated by three self-report questionnaires: the Brief Symptom Inventory, the shortened version of the Spielberger State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory, and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. Psychological factors were not related to HRV. Anxiety was associated with decreased BRS (p = 0.001) and higher low-frequency (p = 0.002) power of systolic arterial pressure variability. These associations were independent of age, gender, other psychological factors, heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Hostility was an independent correlate of increased low-frequency power of diastolic arterial pressure (p = 0.001) and increased high-frequency power of systolic arterial pressure (p = 0.033) variability. Anxiety and hostility are related to reduced BRS and increased low-frequency power of BPV. Reduced BRS reflects decreased parasympathetic outflow to the heart and may increase BPV through an increased sympathetic predominance.