Cardiac vagal control mediates the relation between past depression and blood pressure several years later among young adults.

Author: Yang X1, Daches S2, Yaroslavsky I3, George CJ4, Kovacs M1
1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
2Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.
3Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, USA.
4Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Conference/Journal: Psychophysiology.
Date published: 2020 Jan 27
Other: Volume ID: e13535 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/psyp.13535. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 238

Depression has been associated with high blood pressure (BP). However, the mechanisms of the relation between depression and high BP are unclear. We therefore examined whether impaired cardiac vagal control, indexed as low levels of resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), serves as a route from depression to high BP. The sample included 125 subjects with histories of depression (probands), 123 never depressed siblings of probands (high-risk siblings), and 156 controls. Resting RSA was assessed at Time 1 (T1) along with BP when subjects were adolescents (Mage  = 16.3 years); systolic and diastolic BP (SBP and DBP) were measured again at Time 2 (T2) when subjects were young adults (Mage  = 22.3 years). Linear mixed-effects models were used to examine the group differences in resting RSA and T2 BP outcomes and to test for RSA mediation of the relation between depression (history or being at high risk) and BP. Resting RSA was lower among probands than controls but was similar among high-risk siblings and controls, while the subject groups did not differ in T2 SBP or DBP. Controlling for T1 BP, depression history indirectly affected T2 DBP (but not SBP) through resting RSA. The findings suggest that, although the direct detrimental effects of depression on BP are not yet evident in young adulthood, among those with depression histories, impaired cardiac vagal control appears to serve as a mechanism of elevated DBP.

© 2020 Society for Psychophysiological Research.

KEYWORDS: blood pressure; cardiac vagal control; depression; respiratory sinus arrhythmia

PMID: 31985075 DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13535