Examining the Impact of Stressors on Cardiovascular Disease, and the Relationship Between Cardiovascular Disease and Cognition
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Psychology Undergraduate Research Theses
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a global health issue and a leading cause of death among Americans. Scientific research indicates that CVD and its risk factors may be influenced by stress, and are associated with deficits in cognitive functioning. Although risk for CVD has been measured using traditional risk factors, incorporating non-traditional risk factors may improve the performance of risk tools, and develop our understanding of more nuanced factors that can influence CVD. The present study, therefore, investigated how different experiences with stress (i.e., traumatic events and perceived stress) could impact CVD and its risk factors. We also examined the relationship between CVD, CVD risk factors, and cognition. Participants were 1092 adults (mean age = 54.91 years) from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. Stress was assessed using self-reported experiences with traumatic events and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). CVD risk was assessed using the general Framingham Risk Score (FRS) and experiences with angina. CVD was assessed using self-reported experiences with heart disease and TIA/stroke. Cognition was assessed using composite episodic memory and executive functioning scores from the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone (BTACT). Data were analyzed using Fisher's exact tests, logistic regressions, linear regressions, and Mann-Whitney U tests. Both measures of stress were not significantly associated with CVD or its risk factors. Angina was not significantly associated with episodic memory or executive functioning composite measures. Higher risk scores were significantly associated with lower episodic memory composite measures but not with executive functioning composite measures. Heart disease was associated with poorer episodic memory but not with executive functioning. TIA/stroke was not associated with episodic memory or executive functioning. CVD and its risk factors have negative impacts on episodic memory and executive functioning, both of which are important in performing everyday activities. The present study demonstrates the need to create and target screening and preventative efforts to reduce the risk of poor cardiovascular health and cognitive impairment in the general population.
Academic Major: Psychology
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