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Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2011 Sep;36(3):185-92. doi: 10.1007/s10484-011-9160-3.

Biofeedback-assisted cardiovascular control in hypertensives exposed to emotional stress: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Via Venezia, 8, 35131, Padua, Italy.


The study was aimed at examining the effect of a short Heart Rate-Biofeedback (HR-BF) protocol on systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure levels and BP emotional reactivity. Twenty-four unmedicated outpatients with pre- and stage 1 hypertension, were randomly assigned to active treatment (BF-Training) or control (BP-Monitoring) group. Subjects in BF-Training Group underwent four BF sessions. Guided imagery of stressful events was introduced during sessions 3 and 4. Control participants self-monitored their BP at home for 4 weeks. Subjects in both groups performed an emotional Speech Test before and after the training (or monitoring) period. SBP and mean arterial pressure responses to the emotional Speech Test were significantly smaller after the BF-training than the BP-monitoring. Moreover, clinic SBP and DBP were significantly reduced by about 10 mmHg in BF-Training Group, whereas they remained unchanged in control group. Self-monitored BP decreased significantly in the active treatment group and not in control group. A short BF-training, including guided imagery of stressful events, was effective in reducing BP reactions to a psychosocial stressor. BP measured in the clinic, and self-monitored at home were also significantly reduced in the BF-Training Group. HR-BF appears to be a suitable intervention for hypertensive patients, mostly when BP increase is associated with emotional activation.

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