Couples’ Cardiovascular Health (CCV Study)

Collaborator: Kira Birditt (PI)

Funding Agency: University of Michigan, Survey Research Center

Description: Hypertension is a significant public health concern as nearly half of adults (~46%) in the U.S. have hypertension and hypertension is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, renal disease, microvascular brain injury, faster cognitive decline, impairments in mobility, mild cognitive impairment, dementia and mortality. In addition, the death rate from hypertension has increased by 38% in recent years. A burgeoning literature shows that lifetime adversity is associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CHD). However, mechanisms accounting for the links between long-term stress exposure, hypertension and CHD remain unclear. Cardiovascular reactivity (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure reactions to stress) is hypothesized to be a major contender as it predicts increased risk of cardiac events and mortality, especially among people with hypertension. Further a great deal of research suggests that cardiovascular reactivity is intimately linked with the social context. One of the most important social contexts in older adulthood is the spousal relationship. Research shows that spouses have important influences on blood pressure.  However there have been no studies to date that examine older couples in daily life to understand how daily experiences are linked with cardiovascular reactivity. This pilot study will include 20 couples, N=40, aged 50 and older in which at least one member of the couple is diagnosed with hypertension. Participants will complete a baseline interview followed by 7 days of ecological momentary assessment surveys every three hours. Participants will also wear the BodyGuardian Mini that assesses heart rate, and the Caretaker, an ambulatory blood pressure monitor.

The aims are to:
1) Identify links between daily experiences and well-being (emotional, cardiovascular) among older couples.
2) Examine the personal and situational factors that moderate links between daily experiences and well-being (emotional, cardiovascular) among older couples.