Hypertension and stress: Psychobiological factors of stress reactivity in essential hypertension

“Psychobiological factors of stress reactivity in essential hypertension”

Project leader: Petra Wirtz
Project duration: 2003 – 2005
Funding: Foundation for Research in Science and the Humanities at the University of Zurich (2003 to PW)

Essential hypertension is considered one of the most important risk factors in the development of cardiovascular disease as well as the underlying process of arteriosclerosis. The mechanisms that cause hypertensive individuals to develop above-average levels of arteriosclerosis have not been fully uncovered.
The project investigated physiological stress reactivity in men with essential hypertension as well as control subjects with regular blood pressure. Besides stress hormones such as cortisol and catecholamine, we also recorded the clotting factor and blood lipids. A particular focus was placed on identifying psychological factors accompanying increased physiological stress reactivity. The results showed a general hyperreactivity of the examined physiological systems in subjects affected by essential hypertension. Besides reduced perceptions of social support and the poor regulation of emotions, psychological correlatives of increased physiological stress reactivity in hypertension also included adverse attributions of failure.

Wirtz, P.H., Von Känel, R., Mohiyeddini, C., Emini, L., Ruedisueli, K., Groessbauer, S. & Ehlert, U. (2006). Low social support and poor emotional regulation are associated with increased stress hormone reactivity to mental stress in systemic hypertension. J Clin Endocrinol and Metab 91(10):3857-3865. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U., Emini, L., Ruedisueli, K., Groessbauer, S. & Von Känel, R. (2006). The role of stress hormones in the relationship between systemic hypertension and the hypercoagulable state. J Hypertens 24(12):2409-16. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U., Emini, L., Ruedisueli, K., Groessbauer, S. & Von Känel, R. (2007). Procoagulant stress reactivity and recovery in apparently healthy men with systolic and diastolic hypertension. J Psychosom Res 63:51-58. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U., S., Baertschi, C.,& Von Känel, R. (2009). Changes in plasma lipids with psychosocial stress are related to hypertension status and the norepinephrine stress response. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 58:30-37. [Link]

Kuebler, U., Trachsel, M., von Känel, R., Abbruzzese, E., Ehlert, U. & Wirtz, P.H. (2014). Attributional styles and stress-related atherogenic plasma lipid reactivity in essential hypertension. J Psychosom Res 77(1):51-6. [Link]