• Hypertension;
  • Family history;
  • Cardiovascular hyperreactivity


The present study investigated whether subjects with a positive family history of hypertension would display differential responses in blood pressure and heart rate across different laboratory tasks. We also wanted to know whether subjects would display stable within-subject responses across different laboratory tasks. Twenty-three family history positive subjects and 23 with a negative family history participated in three tasks: 1) mental arithmetic, 2) a conversation about the weather (low affect task), and 3) a conversation about a recent upsetting, interpersonal event (high affect task). Positive family history was associated with elevated diastolic resting blood pressure and greater diastolic responsivity overall. For both groups, arithmetic was associated with the greatest heart rate changes, whereas the distressing conversation was accompanied by the greatest diastolic blood pressure response. Stability of cardiovascular activation across different tasks was present only for heart rate; it was weak for diastolic blood pressure, and completely absent for systolic blood pressure.