Self-Selected Leisure Promotes Ambulatory Blood Pressure Dipping: A Within-Person Field Experiment

Lydia Chechowitz, “Self-Selected Leisure Promotes Ambulatory Blood Pressure Dipping: A Within-Person Field Experiment”
Mentor: Marcellus Merritt, Psychology

An early indicator of future cardiovascular risk is a lack of nighttime blood pressure (BP) dipping from daytime to nighttime. Identifying what behaviors may promote greater BP dipping has potential to prevent future disease, yet recent work has suggested that common health behaviors like smoking and physical activity are unrelated to dipping. One viable set of behaviors may be engagement in self-selected leisure activities (or SSLAs) that have been shown to reduce stress and improve mood and cognitions, and to relate to general daily BP control. As such, we hypothesized there would be more nighttime BP dipping on a day in which one does an SSLA, versus another day when not doing an SSLA. Healthy young adults (n = 38; 78.9% female; 68.4% White) visited our laboratory twice within roughly one week. At each visit, participants were fitted with an ambulatory monitor to collect BP over 24 hours. On each day participants were randomly assigned to either engage in an SSLA or to go about their day as usual except to refrain from engaging in SSLAs. Results demonstrated a higher percentage of BP dipping on SSLA versus control days for both systolic BP (M= 16.05, SD= 1.08 vs. M= 13.09, SD= 1.32, p= 0.033) and diastolic BP (M= 15.71, SD= 1.19 vs. M= 10.73, SD= 1.50, p= 0.003). Overall, SSLAs may be a protective factor against future cardiovascular disease, by way of a nighttime BP dipping effect.

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  1. Very interesting. This observer would have benefited from a clearer definition of “dipping,” as well as examples of SSLAs.

  2. Your project is well laid and presented; methods & results were clearly outlined and described. Nice job!

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