Background and objectives: Endothelial function plays a key role in determining the clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis. Recent reports have shown that healthy elderly subjects with higher trait anxiety tend to have heightened risks of atherosclerotic lesions and cardiovascular disease. The present study was intended to examine whether an association exists between trait anxiety and endothelial function in healthy young and elderly subjects.
Methods: This study examined 26 young male and 30 elderly male subjects using brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) – a non-invasive ultrasound method – to evaluate endothelial function by measuring the dilation responses of vascular smooth muscle to the nitric oxide produced by endothelial cells following hyperemia.
Results: A significant negative correlation was observed between the State and Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)-trait score as a parameter of anxiety and the percentage change of FMD (%FMD) in the elderly subjects, but not in the young subjects. The elderly subjects showed significantly lower %FMD than the young subjects.
Conclusion: These results suggest the possibility that trait anxiety is a predisposing risk factor for cardiovascular damage that might, over a long period, induce atherosclerotic lesions.