The Association of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder With Clinic and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Healthy Adults

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Abstract

Objective

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with incident cardiovascular risk. We tested the association of PTSD with clinic and ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) in a sample of healthy participants and tested ABP reactivity to anxiety as a mechanism by which PTSD may influence blood pressure (BP).

Methods

Participants were originally enrolled during workplace BP screenings at three sites; approximately 6 years (standard deviation = 1.0) later, they completed nine clinic BP assessments within three visits, 1 week apart. Before the third visit, participants were screened for PTSD (≥33 on the PTSD Checklist–Civilian) and depression (Beck Depression Inventory) and then completed 24-hour ABP monitoring with electronic diary assessment of anxiety (0–100) at each awake reading.

Results

Of 440 participants, 92 (21%) screened positive for PTSD. In regression models adjusted for depression and demographic and clinical variables, PTSD was associated with greater mean systolic BP (3.8 mm Hg clinic [95% confidence interval {CI}] = 1.1–6.5, p = .006), 3.0 mm Hg awake ABP [95% CI = 0.1–5.9, p = .04], and a nonsignificant 2.1 mm Hg ABP during sleep [95% CI = −1.0 to 5.1, p = .18]). PTSD was associated with greater 24-hour median anxiety (p < .001), and changes in anxiety were positively associated with concurrent systolic ABP (p < .001). ABP reactivity to anxiety was greater in participants with PTSD, which partially explained the association of PTSD with ABP.

Conclusions

PTSD is associated with greater systolic BP, partly because of greater anxiety, and systolic BP reactivity to anxiety throughout the day. Daily anxiety and related BP reactivity may be targets for interventions to reduce the cardiovascular risk associated with PTSD.

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