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Psychosom Med. 1991 Mar-Apr;53(2):185-97.

Cardiovascular responses to psychological and physiological stressors during the menstrual cycle.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Psychological and physical stress reactivity was studied in 15 females in two phases of the menstrual cycle (cycle days 5-7 and 24-26) and in 15 males. Each female was matched for age and time between sessions with a male. There was a significant phase-related difference in cardiovascular reactivity among the females. Females in the luteal phase reacted significantly more to the cold pressor but not to the mental arithmetic test. There were significant sex differences in systolic blood pressure, the males displaying higher levels during provocation, as well as during control conditions. The females were more reactive in heart rate to the mental stressor when changes from control conditions to stress were calculated. When the data were analyzed separately for smokers and non-smokers, there was a significant interaction between menstrual cycle phase and smoking. In the luteal phase, the female smokers were more reactive in systolic blood pressure than the non-smokers. The male smokers were more reactive than the non-smokers in diastolic blood pressure response to mental arithmetic, but not to the cold pressor test. Significantly higher levels of cortisol and aldosterone were found in the luteal phase as compared with the follicular phase. The cortisol levels were higher in the males than in the females in the follicular phase, whereas the female aldosterone concentrations in the luteal phase were higher than those of the males.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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