To evaluate the relationship between diurnal salivary cortisol patterns and distress from heart palpitations in midlife women.
We analyzed baseline data from 293 women who were eligible for a 3 × 2 factorial trial of exercise or yoga versus routine activity, and omega-3 fish oil versus placebo for vasomotor symptoms. Women self-collected salivary cortisol using swabs at four time points over 2 consecutive days and reported distress from heart racing or pounding during the past 2 weeks using a single item. Sample description and covariate data included demographics, clinical data, vasomotor symptom frequency from daily diaries, medication use, and validated questionnaires on depression, stress, and insomnia (Patient Health Questionnaire-8, Perceived Stress Scale, and Insomnia Severity index). Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, chi-square and t tests, and repeated measure linear regression models.
Participants were on average 54.6 (SD = 3.6) years old, most were White (67%) postmenopausal (84%), and 26% reported distress related to palpitations. In adjusted models, the morning (wake plus 30-min) geometric mean daily salivary cortisol concentrations were significantly more blunted in those with distress from palpitations compared with those without distress (P ≤ 0.03). When all covariates were controlled, distress from palpitations was the sole significant predictor of wake plus 30-minute cortisol (−0.25 [−0.45 to −0.04], P = 0.02).
Palpitations among midlife women may be associated with blunted morning cortisol, and this relationship is not explained by demographics, clinical variables, vasomotor symptoms, medications, depression, stress, or insomnia.