Sex differences in the association between PTSD symptoms with cardiac autonomic function and subclinical atherosclerotic risk

Michael E. Holmstrup, Brock T. Jensen, Alaina C. Glasgow, Kevin S. Heffernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a public health concern that may elevate the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). There are established sex differences in both PTSD risk and CVD risk. Purpose: To examine sex-specific associations between subclinical PTSD symptom severity and subclinical CVD risk in young men and women. Methods: A total of 61 young adults (women: n = 29, mean age: 26 ± 7 years) completed the post-traumatic stress disorder civilian checklist (PCL) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Aortic stiffness was measured as carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (cfPWV). Peripheral vasomotor function was measured as flow-mediated slowing (FMS) of carotid-radial PWV following 5-min forearm occlusion. Heart rate variability was used to assess sympathovagal balance as LF/HF ratio. Results: PCL score was positively correlated with CES-D score (r = 0.79, p <.001), cfPWV (r = 0.33, p =.03) and LF/HF ratio (r = 0.42, p =.009) in men. PCL score was positively correlated to CES-D score (r = 0.80, p <.001) in women, but was inversely correlated to cfPWV (r = −0.38, p =.02) and LF/HF ratio (r = −0.34, p =.04). PCL score was also inversely associated with FMS in women (r = −0.49, p =.01). Conclusion: There are sex differences in the association of PTSD symptoms and subclinical atherosclerosis. In men, increased PTSD symptoms may increase CVD risk by increasing sympathovagal balance and aortic stiffness. In women, increased PTSD symptoms may increase CVD risk via reducing vasomotor function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-398
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Volume40
Issue number6
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • pulse wave slowing
  • sympathovagal balance
  • vascular stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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