Examining the association between salivary cortisol levels and subclinical measures of atherosclerosis: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Anjum Hajat, Ana V. Diez-Roux, Brisa N. Sánchez, Paul Holvoet, João A. Lima, Sharon S. Merkin, Joseph F. Polak, Teresa E. Seeman, Meihua Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To investigate the association between salivary cortisol and two markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary calcification (CAC), and ankle-brachial index (ABI). Methods: Data from an ancillary study to the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), the MESA Stress Study, were used to analyze associations of salivary cortisol data collected six times per day over three days with CAC and ABI. The authors used mixed models with repeat cortisol measures nested within persons to determine if specific features of the cortisol profile were associated with CAC and ABI. Results: A total of 464 participants were included in the CAC analysis and 610 in the ABI analysis. The mean age of participants was 65.6 years. A 1-unit increase in log coronary calcium was associated with a 1.77% flatter early decline in cortisol (95% CI: 0.23, 3.34) among men and women combined. Among women low ABI was associated with a steeper early decline (-13.95% CI: -25.58, -3.39) and a marginally statistically significant flatter late decline (1.39% CI: -0.009, 2.81). The cortisol area under the curve and wake to bedtime slope were not associated with subclinical CVD. Conclusions: This study provides weak support for the link between cortisol and measures of subclinical atherosclerosis. We found an association between some features of the diurnal cortisol profile and coronary calcification and ABI but associations were not consistent across subclinical measures. There are methodological challenges in detecting associations of cortisol measures at a point in time with health outcomes that develop over a lifetime. Studies of short-term mechanisms linking stress to physiological processes related to the development of early atherosclerosis may be more informative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1036-1046
Number of pages11
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume38
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013

Keywords

  • Ankle brachial index
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary calcification
  • Cortisol awakening response
  • Cortisol diurnal pattern
  • Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
  • Salivary cortisol
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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