Family History of Cardiovascular Disease, Physical Fitness, and Psychophysiological Reactivity to Mental Stress

  • Andrew Steptoe
  • David Molineux
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


A study is described in which cardiovascular responses to mental stress tests were related to physical fitness and to family history of high blood pressure. 24 positive and 40 negative family history males aged 14–16 were assessed, and they were divided on the basis of sub-maximal exercise tests into equally sized fit and unfit groups. Blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen consumption and other measures were obtained during performance of a problem-solving task administered at easy and difficult levels, and easy and difficult versions of a video game. The results indicate that the problem-solving task elicited cardiac responses that were out of proportion with metabolic demands in comparison with the video game. Heart rate responses to the problem-solving task were greater in unfit than fit subjects, but only in the difficult condition (when active, effortful behaviour was required). Positive family history led to more sustained systolic pressure responses to the problem-solving task, and also to a delay in systolic pressure and heart rate recovery following tasks, in comparison with negative family history. No interactions between family history and physical fitness were observed. The implications of these results for the involvement of behavioural processes in the aetiology and management of cardiovascular disorders is discussed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Steptoe
    • 1
  • David Molineux
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, St George’s Hospital Medical SchoolUniversity of LondonCranmer Terrace, LondonLondonUK

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