Vagal control moderates the association between endothelial function and PTSD symptoms in women with T2DM

Brain Behav Immun Health. 2022 Oct 3:26:100527. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2022.100527. eCollection 2022 Dec.


Background: Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to present with metabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and cardiovascular dysfunction has been implicated in this link. These diseases disproportionately affect women and individuals exposed to chronic environmental stressors (e.g., community violence, poverty). We examined associations among PTSD, cardiovascular indices, and metabolic function in highly trauma-exposed Black women with T2DM.

Methods: Participants (N = 80) were recruited for a follow-up study of stress and T2DM as part of the Grady Trauma Project. PTSD symptoms were assessed with the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-IV). Cardiovascular indices included heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and endothelial function (assessed via flow-mediated dilation; FMD). An oral glucose tolerance test was used as an indicator of metabolic function.

Results: Of the cardiovascular indices, only FMD was significantly associated with PTSD symptoms (CAPS Avoidance symptoms; β = -0.37, p = .042), and glucose tolerance (β = -0.44, p = .019), controlling for age and body mass index. The association between FMD and PTSD Avoidance was moderated by RSA such that the effect of FMD was only significant at low levels of RSA (simple slopes β = -0.87, p = .004).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that endothelial function is significantly related to PTSD and glucose tolerance, over and above other cardiovascular measures (HR, BP, RSA). Further, our results suggest that low RSA may be a risk factor for the link between poor endothelial function and PTSD in women with T2DM.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Metabolic; PTSD; Trauma; Type-II diabetes Mellitus.