Cardiovascular Reactivity to and Recovery from Laboratory Tasks in Low and High Worry Women

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Virginia Tech

Anxiety and its cognitive component of worry have been related to exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity and delayed recovery to laboratory stressors, and to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Previous research on the anxiety-cardiovascular system relationship, including data from Knepp and Friedman (2008), are included to support this project. Two experiments were completed during the course of this study. The first consisted of two peripheral-based body positioning tasks. The second experiment used an active versus passive sympathetic stress task paradigm (mental arithmetic, hand cold pressor). Subjects were nonsmokers free of cardiovascular and neurological disease. Trait worry was examined through the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ). Blood pressure recordings and cardiac recordings through ECG and ICG were done in each experiment during seven epochs: an anticipatory baseline with three baselines preceding and three recovery periods following each task. Repeated measures analysis was run on all cardiovascular measures. In the first experiment, high worriers had worsened blood pressure reactivity to task. The second experiment found that high worriers had increased stroke volume across all epochs. There were mixed findings in the studies relating to subjects acclimated to the laboratory experience. Future directions of research relating anxiety, worry, and cardiovascular risk factors are discussed.

Autonomic, Blood Pressure, Heart Rate Variability, Worry