Background: Chronic psychological trauma may impact the heart and stimulate the development of a premature cardiovascular disease (CV).However, it still remains unclear if transgenerational transmission of trauma (TTT) impacts the heart. Observations in military veterans have shown that the circadian CV rhythm is altered in post-trauma cases. We focussed on TTT impact on the heart first-generation offspring. The TreeGenes study (The Netherlands) studied the cardiovascular impact of trauma in three generations of World War II survivors. We assessed in all cases the psycho-CV impact, epigenetic changes and did in-depth interviews focussing on resilience. We report the findings of cardiovascular impact in offspring by sharing results on 24-hour blood pressure measurements and 24-hour heart rate analysis. Hypothesis: TTT disturbs the circadian CV balance in offspring.
Methods: 38 cases underwent a 24-hour blood pressure and an ambulant heart rate monitoring procedure, in addition, to the interview. Matched controls for age and gender without a traumatic past in the first generation were selected and did undergo a similar CV assessment.The average age of the offspring and controls was 65 (61–73 years, 20 women and 18 men).
Results: The heart rate was significantly elevated as compared to the controls. In addition, the nightly normal blood pressure dip (>15%) did not occur in comparison with controls.
Conclusion: This is the first study to report that first generation offspring is likely to suffer from transgenerational transmission of CV trauma.
The relevance for the second generation survivors in the TreeGenes Study is not limited to a warlike situation.It seems plausible that other populations (veterans, refugees etc.) will show a similar pathological CV response.