Anxiety increases the blood pressure response during exercise

Abstract Aim: The hypothesis that higher levels of anxiety promote greater blood pressure (BP) responses during physical exercise is tested. The hypothesis that metaborreflex response is increased in an anxious individual is tested as well. Methods: There were 43 volunteers divided by anxiety level: 12 volunteers with mild, moderate and severe symptoms (anxious-group) and 31 volunteers with a minimum level of anxiety (control-group). Arterial BP, heart rate, and forearm blood flow were measured simultaneously during handgrip exercise and post-exercise ischemia, and forearm vascular resistance (FVR) was calculated. Results: Anxious group present higher systolic, diastolic and mean BP at rest when compared with control group (130±11 vs. 122±12 mmHg, p=0.048; 70±6 vs. 65±8 mmHg, p=0.033; 90±7 vs. 84±9 mmHg, p=0.033, respectively) and higher response of systolic, diastolic and mean BP and FVR during exercise when compared with control group (20±9 vs. 13±7 mmHg, p=0.009; 17±8 vs. 11±6 mmHg, p=0.006; 18±8 vs. 11±6 mmHg, p=0.005; and 0±13 vs. -7±9 units, p=0,003, respectively). During post-exercise ischemia, the anxious group also present higher response of diastolic BP, mean BP and FVR when compared with a control group (11±12 vs. 3±4 mmHg, p=0,001, 10±8 vs. 3±5 mmHg, p=0,002; 9±11 vs. -2± 8 units, p=0,03, respectively). Conclusion: Anxious individuals present higher BP responses during physical exercise when compared with those with minimal anxiety symptoms. This increased response may be explained, in part, by increased peripheral vascular resistance due to the greater metaborreflex response.