Trait anxiety mimics age-related cardiovascular autonomic modulation in young adults

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Anxiety produces maladaptive cardiovascular changes and accelerates biological aging. We evaluated cardiovascular reactivity in young and middle-aged individuals with varying anxiety scores to test the hypothesis that anxiety mimics cardiovascular aging by influencing cardiovascular autonomic modulation. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was used to classify healthy young individuals (20-29 years) into high (YHA, n = 22;10 men) and low (YLA, n = 21;10 men) anxiety, and to identify middle-aged individuals (50-60 years) with low anxiety (MLA, n = 22;11 men). Heart rate, blood pressure (BP) and their variability (HRV and BPV, respectively) and baroreflex function were analyzed from beat-to-beat finger BP and electrocardiogram recordings collected during 5-min baseline, 6-min speech task (ST) and 3-min post ST recovery. Analyses of covariance showed significant differences (P< 0.05) at baseline for HRV, BPV and barorelfex, and low-frequency power of systolic BP variability (LFSBP) was lower, whereas baroreflex and high frequency (HF) normalized units were higher in the YLA compared with YHA and MLA groups. Compared with YLA, YHA and MLA displayed attenuated vagal withdraw response (HF) to ST. BP and LFSBP responses to ST in YHA and MLA were higher compared with the YLA group. These findings suggest that anxiety could be linked to cardiovascular aging as it attenuates cardiac reactivity and exaggerates vascular responses to stress.

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