, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 91-103

Prolonged stress-related cardiovascular activation: Is there any?

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Abstract

Background: Prolonged physiological activation before or after stressors has gained recognition as a decisive element in theories that explain the link between stress and disease, specifically cardiovascular (CV) disease. This view is opposed to the conventional reactivity hypothesis that emphasizes responses during stressors.Purpose: Prolonged activity has not often been an explicit research goal of real-life stress studies. Nevertheless, a growing number of these studies have provided evidence for prolonged activity, often as a secondary research goal.Methods: An overview of this evidence is lacking and is provided in this article.Results: The combined data from the reviewed studies suggest that discrete and chronic stress sources, as well as negative emotional episodes and dispositions, are related to prolonged CV activity of various durations, including sleep periods. On the other hand, evidence supporting the assumption that prolonged stress-related activation predicts disease is still very modest.Conclusions: In this article we suggest that future research of prolonged activation should give priority to (a) the establishment of clear beginnings and endings of stressful events, (b) the prediction of disease by prolonged activation, and (c) potential psychological mediators of stress-related prolonged activation. These mediators may include, for example, worry and rumination, or other processes characterized by perseverative cognition, including unconscious processes.

This study was financially supported by a grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).