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Int J Psychophysiol. 2011 Sep;81(3):332-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Prospective associations between cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress and change in physical disability in a large community sample.

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School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, UK.


Exaggerated haemodynamic reactions to acute psychological stress have been implicated in cardiovascular disease outcomes, while lower reactions have been considered benign. This study examined, in a large cohort, the prospective associations between stress reactivity and physical disability. Blood pressure and pulse rate were measured at rest and in response to a stress task. Physical disability was assessed using the OPCS survey of disability at baseline and five years later. Heart rate reactivity was negatively associated with change in physical disability over time, such that those with lower heart rate reactivity were more likely to deteriorate over the following five years. These effects remained significant following adjustment for a number of confounding variables. These data give further support to the recent argument that for some health outcomes, lower or blunted cardiovascular stress reactivity is not necessarily protective.

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