I examine early risk factors for cardiovascular disease within a biopsychosocial framework. Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, are primarily caused by aging, but there are known biological, psychological and social risk factors that speed up the disease process. For example, heavy weight, a hostile personality, low socioeconomic status and African American ethnicity all increase one's risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular reactivity may also be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and one that is particularly susceptible to biological, psychological and social factors. My research seeks to identify the role cardiovascular reactivity plays in the disease process and how biopsychosocial factors influence these responses.
I have examined personality factors such as hostility and pessimism, and social factors, such as family conflict and social support, on cardiovascular reactivity and risk for cardiovascular disease. Currently, I am examining racial discrimination as a stressor for African Americans using ambulatory blood pressure monitoring with the goal of partially explaining African Americans' increased risk for cardiovascular disease. I am examining overall perceptions of racism and discrimination as well as blood pressure and emotional responses to specific instances of mistreatment.