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Saban KL, Mathews HL, Bryant FB, Tell D, Joyce C, DeVon HA, Witek Janusek L. Perceived discrimination is associated with the inflammatory response to acute laboratory stress in women at risk for cardiovascular disease. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2018 Oct 1; 73:625-632.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States and exacts a disproportionate toll on minorities. Growing evidence demonstrates that perceived discrimination is a significant contributing factor to psychological distress, chronic low-grade inflammation, and cardiovascular health. However, little is known regarding the extent to which perceived discrimination contributes to the inflammatory response to acute stress. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of perceived discrimination on the inflammatory response to a laboratory acute stress paradigm in women at risk for CVD. A cross-sectional sample of 99 postmenopausal women (50 African American and 49 non-Hispanic White) (mean age 60.2?years) with at least two risk factors for CVD underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Subjects completed the Detroit Area Study Discrimination Scale (DAS-DS) Everyday Discrimination subscale and provided blood and saliva samples prior to the TSST and every 15?min up to 90?min post-TSST to measure a pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-6 (IL-6). Perceived discrimination was significantly associated with the salivary IL-6 response to the TSST (b? = 0.49, SE? = 0.13, p? = < 0.001) controlling for age, race, marital status, household income, BMI, statin use, childhood maltreatment, depressive symptoms, and subjective social status. Women who reported higher levels of perceived discrimination had higher levels of salivary IL-6 at baseline and following the TSST as compared to women who reported lower levels of perceived discrimination. Results suggest that higher levels of perceived discrimination, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, may heighten levels of inflammation, prior to and following an acute stress exposure. The circulating Il-6 response was associated with BMI only and did not correlate with salivary IL-6. These data suggest that perceived discrimination may contribute to the salivary-IL-6 acute stress response. However, more research is needed to help clarify the complex relationships among stress and salivary proinflammatory cytokines.