Mindfulness stress buffering theory (Creswell & Lindsay, 2014) posits that higher dispositional (trait) mindfulness can protect cardiovascular health by buffering physiological stress reactivity — a risk marker for hypertension and cardiac events. Yet, empirical evidence is mixed. This study used baseline data from the Serenity Study — a recently completed, two-site randomized clinical trial — to assess the link between trait mindfulness and cardiovascular stress reactivity in adults with unmedicated prehypertension (n = 153, Mage = 50, 47% male, 69% White, 28% African-American).
Latent growth curve modeling was used to determine whether specific facets of trait mindfulness, measured by the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Decentering subscale of the Experiences Questionnaire, predict blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) responses to a brief laboratory stressor (5-min anger recall task). BP and HR taken 1-min apart were used in latent growth curve models. We hypothesized after controlling for known covariates of cardiovascular health, higher trait mindfulness would predict lower cardiovascular reactivity to, and faster recovery from, acute emotional stress.
Contrary to predictions, no mindfulness facets predicted cardiovascular reactivity or recovery.
These findings indicate that trait mindfulness facets may not independently affect BP and HR responses to acute emotional stress among prehypertensive but otherwise healthy adults with normal stress levels, prior to mindfulness training. Mindfulness-based interventions may therefore be necessary to engender benefits of mindfulness on stress physiology, as a putative biological mechanism of cardiovascular risk reduction and health promotion.
Trial registration number and date of registration: NCT02371317, 1/21/2015