Cardiovascular-Emotional Dampening: The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Recognition of Emotion

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Persons with elevated blood pressure (BP) show dampened emotional responses to affect-laden stimuli. We sought to further examine cardiovascular-emotional dampening by examination of the relationship between resting hemodynamic measures and recognition of emotion in an African American community-based sample.


Participants were 106 African American men and women (55 women; mean age = 52.8 years), mainly low in socioeconomic status, and part of the Healthy Aging in Nationally Diverse Longitudinal Samples pilot study. Participants evaluated emotional expressions in faces and sentences using the Perception of Affect Test (PAT). Resting BP, total peripheral resistance (TPR), cardiac output, and heart rate were obtained continuously using a Portapres BP monitor.


Total PAT scores were inversely related to systolic (r = −0.30) and diastolic (r = −0.24) BPs, TPR (r = −0.36), and age (r = −0.31; p values < .01) and were positively related to cardiac output (r = 0.27) and education (r = 0.38; p values < .01), as well as with mental state (r = 0.25) and body mass index (r = −0.20; p values < .05). Accuracy of emotion recognition on the PAT tasks remained inversely related to TPR and BP after adjustment for demographic variables, medication, mental state, and body mass index.


Elevated BP and TPR were associated with reduced perception of affect. TPR was the most consistent independent hemodynamic correlate of emotional dampening for the PAT scores. These results suggest potentially important links among central nervous system regulation of emotions, hemodynamic processes, and hypertension development.

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