Adults born preterm at very low birthweight (VLBW; ≤ 1500 g) have high levels of cardiovascular risk factors and altered responses to psychosocial stress including higher blood pressure and lower cortisol. Our aim was to investigate adrenalin (A), noradrenalin (NA) and heart rate (HR) responses to psychosocial stress in adults born preterm at VLBW.
We studied 50 young adults, aged 19-27 years, born at VLBW and 39 term-born controls, group-matched for age, sex and birth hospital. They underwent a standardized psychosocial stress test, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST).
During TSST, A, NA (baseline and 0, 10 and 90 min after stress) and HR were measured. Data were analysed with mixed-effects and linear regression models, adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, hormonal contraception, time of day and highest parental educational attainment.
Baseline concentrations, peak after stress, increments and area under the curve for A and NA were similar in VLBW and control groups. In women, NA concentrations were 27.7% lower (95% CI; 3.1-52.2) in VLBW compared with control women; in men, there was no significant difference. A concentrations were similar for VLBW and control groups in both sexes. Mean HR at baseline, task and HR reactivity was also similar in VLBW and control groups.
Very low-birthweight women seem to have a lower NA response to stress compared with term-born peers. If replicated, this could be a protective characteristic for cardiovascular diseases.