Higher arterial stiffness and blunted vagal control of the heart in young women with compared to without a clinical diagnosis of PTSD

Zynab Ahmed, Chowdhury Ibtida Tahmin, Chowdhury Tasnova Tahsin, Vasiliki Michopoulos, Azhaar Mohamed, Redeat Wattero, Sophia Albott, Kathryn R. Cullen, Dawn A. Lowe, John Osborn, Ida T. Fonkoue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Young women are typically thought to be protected from cardiovascular disease (CVD) before menopause. However, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases CVD risk in women by up to threefold. Data in predominantly male cohorts point to physiological mechanisms such as vascular and autonomic derangements as contributing to increased CVD risk. The purpose of the study reported here was to determine whether young women diagnosed with PTSD, compared to those without, present with arterial stiffness and impaired autonomic control of the heart. Methods: A total of 73 healthy young women, ranging in age from 18 to 40 years, with a history of trauma exposure were included in this study, 32 with and 41 without a clinical PTSD diagnosis. We measured resting pulse wave velocity (PWV), central hemodynamics, augmentation pressure and augmentation index (AI) via pulse wave analysis using applanation tonometry. Heart rate variability was also assessed via peripheral arterial tone. Results: In comparison to controls, women with PTSD showed higher central arterial pressure (mean ± standard deviation: systolic blood pressure 104 ± 8 vs. 97 ± 8 mmHg, p < 0.001; diastolic blood pressure 72 ± 7 vs. 67 ± 7 mmHg, p = 0.003), PWV (6 ± 0.3 vs. 5 ± 0.6 m/s, p < 0.001) and AI (22 ± 13 vs. 15 ± 12%, p = 0.007) but lower standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN; 44 ± 17 vs. 54 ± 18 ms, p = 0.005) and root mean square of successive differences between normal heartbeats (RMSSD; 37 ± 17 vs. 51 ± 22 ms, p = 0.002). Conclusion: PTSD in young women is associated with higher brachial and central pressures, increased arterial stiffness and blunted parasympathetic control of the heart. These findings illustrate potential mechanisms underlying high risk for CVD in young women with PTSD, suggesting possible treatment targets for this at-risk group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2024.


  • Arterial stiffness
  • Central arterial pressure
  • PTSD
  • Women
  • Young

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


Dive into the research topics of 'Higher arterial stiffness and blunted vagal control of the heart in young women with compared to without a clinical diagnosis of PTSD'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this