Parental History of Hypertension and Myocardial Infarction Predicts Cardiovascular Responses to Behavioral Stressors in Middle-aged Men and Women


  • This research was supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grants HL 25767 and HL 07560. The authors wish to thank B. Kent Houston, Mark E. McKinney, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript; Alvin Shapiro and Stephen Manuck for their design and statistical consultation; Diana Block, Tilmer Engebretson, Barbara McCann, Charles Rakackzy, Patrice Saab, and Karen Woodall for their able service as experimenters; and the Upper St. Clair administration and teachers for their support in all phases of the project.

Address requests for reprints to: Karen A. Matthews, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.


The present study had two objectives: to examine the influence of parental history of hypertension on cardiovascular responses during behavioral stress in middle-aged men and women; and to study the impact of parental history of myocardial infarction on stress responses. Participants were separated into four groups: no parental history of cardiovascular disease; parental history of hypertension only; parental history of myocardial infarction only; or parental history of both hypertension and myocardial infarction. Heart rate and blood pressure were monitored at rest and during serial subtraction, mirror image tracing, and isometric handgrip. Analyses of residualized difference scores showed that like younger, male offspring of hypertensives, middle-aged men and women with a parental history of hypertension exhibited exaggerated diastolic blood pressure responses during all stressors. Men with a parental history of myocardial infarction, with or without a parental history of hypertension, exhibited exaggerated systolic blood pressure responses during all stressors. These data are the first to show that family history of hypertension influences middle-aged men's and women's stress responses, and that family history of myocardial infarction influences men's stress responses. Results suggest the importance of parental history of cardiovascular diseases in understanding acute psychophysiological responses of middle-aged adults.