Abstract 10441: Chronic Stress and Adverse Life Events are Associated with Depressed Autonomic Function as Measured by Heart Rate Variability
Background: Chronic stress and adverse life events are well-known to predict future cardiovascular disease. The physiological pathways, however, remain unknown. Decreased heart rate variability (HRV), a non-invasive measure of autonomic status, predicts poor cardiovascular outcomes, and has been correlated with other psychological measures.
Methods: To determine whether chronic stress and adverse life events are associated with decreased HRV, 163 community dwelling volunteers, (mean age 30 years, 55% male, 67% Caucasian) without known cardiovascular or other significant disease and taking no medications, underwent the Cumulative Stress/Adversity Checklist, (CSC) a 140-item event interview which is a comprehensive measure of cumulative adversity covering major life events, life trauma and chronic stressors, and underwent 24 hour ambulatory ECG monitoring. 24-hour HRV was analyzed in the frequency domain.
Results: In bivariate analyses, total stress, chronic stressors, and adverse life events were all inversely associated with ULF, VLF, and LF power (all p<0.05). HRV in high-vs low- total stress groups (dichotomized at the median) is shown in graph below. After controlling for race, smoking, and BMI (which were associated with both stress and HRV), the odds of having low ULF for those in the higher total stress, chronic stressors, and adverse life events groups were 2.2, 1.9, and 2.1 respectively (all p<0.05).
Conclusion: Chronic stressors and adverse life events are associated with decreased autonomic function as measured by heart rate variability, even after controlling for potential behavioral mediators, suggesting a potential mechanism by which these stressors may exert their adverse influences on mortality. Preventive efforts should focus on stress reduction as well as behavioral change.
- © 2011 by American Heart Association, Inc.