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Hypertension. 1987 Dec;10(6):555-63.

Effects of race and marginally elevated blood pressure on responses to stress.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27514.


A total of 228 men, aged 18 to 22 years (109 black and 119 white), underwent monitoring of heart rate (HR) and systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) responses during several stressor conditions and a 30-minute posttask rest period. Stressors included the cold pressor test and three reaction-time tasks: noncompetitive, competitive, and competitive plus money incentive. Substantial within-subject variations in blood pressure and heart rate were induced, varying from 119/70 to 148/94 mm Hg and from 63 to 91 beats/min on the average. Men (25 black and 39 white) with marginal SBP elevations during initial casual determinations had higher SBP under all conditions compared with men whose casual SBP levels were normal, and they also showed greater elevations over baseline levels in heart rate, SBP, and DBP during the stressors and the initial casual determination. Black and white subjects did not differ in their blood pressures at baseline or during the initial casual determinations, although blacks had slightly lower heart rates. Blacks did show greater SBP elevations over baseline levels than whites during the stressors, primarily because the blacks with marginally elevated SBP showed substantially greater stress-induced increases than whites with marginally elevated SBP. This enhanced pressor response to stress in blacks with marginal blood pressure elevations may be due to higher vascular resistance during enhanced sympathetic activity and could contribute to the higher incidence of hypertension among blacks.

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