Cardiovascular Reactivity and Left Ventricular Mass: An Integrative Review

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Left ventricular hypertrophy has been shown to be an independent predictor of risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Behavioral scientists have focused on how hemodynamic factors influenced by psychosocial stress may be associated with left ventricular mass (LVM). We reviewed existing studies examining stress-related cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) and LVM, with a goal of examining the moderating role of population (age and hypertensive status) and methodological factors (task type, sample size, and study design) explaining the observed results. Twenty-one studies met the criteria for this review. Results showed only a modestly consistent relationship between CVR and LVM. Forty-three percent of the studies reported 1 or more significant results linking systolic blood pressure reactivity with LVM, and 14% of the studies showed that diastolic blood pressure reactivity was significantly related to LVM. Hypertensive status, task type, and sample size did not play a major role in moderating the relationship between LVM and CVR. A somewhat larger percentage of positive results was shown in prospective and adult studies. The association between CVR and LVM may be real, although the effect size is modest, and we discuss methodological strategies for enhancing statistical power in future investigations. Additional sampling factors (e.g., race, gender) may also impact this relationship. Finally, greater attention is warranted to the role of the psychosocial environment, as this may interact with reactivity to influence LVM.

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