Trauma is a potent exposure that can have implications for health. However, little research has considered whether trauma exposure is related to endothelial function, a key process in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease (CVD). We tested whether exposure to traumatic experiences was related to poorer endothelial function among midlife women, independent of CVD risk factors, demographic factors, psychosocial factors, or a history of childhood abuse.Methods:
In all, 272 nonsmoking perimenopausal and postmenopausal women aged 40 to 60 years without clinical CVD completed the Brief Trauma Questionnaire, the Child Trauma Questionnaire, physical measures, a blood draw, and a brachial ultrasound for assessment of brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Relations between trauma and FMD were tested in linear regression models controlling for baseline vessel diameter, demographics, depression/anxiety, CVD risk factors, health behaviors, and, additionally, a history of childhood abuse.Results:
Over 60% of the sample had at least one traumatic exposure, and 18% had three or more exposures. A greater number of traumatic exposures was associated with lower FMD, indicating poorer endothelial function in multivariable models (beta, β [standard error, SE] −1.05 [0.40], P = 0.01). Relations between trauma exposure and FMD were particularly pronounced for three or more trauma exposures (b [SE] −1.90 [0.71], P = 0.008, relative to no exposures, multivariable).Conclusions:
A greater number of traumatic exposures were associated with poorer endothelial function. Relations were not explained by demographics, CVD risk factors, mood/anxiety, or a by history of childhood abuse. Women with greater exposure to trauma over life maybe at elevated CVD risk.