Bertone-Johnson awarded grant to study links between PMS and hypertension

March 18, 2013

Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, was recently awarded a two-year, $390,000 R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Office of Research on Women’s Health for a project titled “Premenstrual syndrome and risk of hypertension.” The R21 grant mechanism is intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of a project’s development.

The project builds on Bertone-Johnson’s previous research exploring the relation of dietary and lifestyle factors with PMS . Several factors indicative of moderate to severe PMS have also been implicated in the development of hypertension, which in turn is one of the strongest predictors of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. Thus, Bertone-Johnson will be examining if PMS serves as a predictor of CVD in women.

Bertone-Johnson will be working with data collected from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS2). Established in 1989, the NHS2 is a long-term epidemiological study following 116,000 female nurses to assess risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Bertone-Johnson’s team has developed a prospective sub-study of PMS nested within the NHS2 cohort, which will include 1257 women who meet established criteria for moderate to severe PMS and a comparison group of 2463 women without PMS. Participants will have been followed for 24 years for incident hypertension and changes in blood pressure, and women with PMS will have been observed for up to 20 years following their PMS diagnosis.

Bertone-Johnson and colleagues will determine prospectively if PMS occurring in the middle reproductive years is associated with subsequent risk of hypertension and changes in blood pressure over time. They will also examine if common PMS treatments and dietary and behavioral factors modify the association of PMS and blood pressure, and thus provide opportunities for women experiencing PMS to reduce their risk of hypertension and CVD. Finally, they will examine data from a study of over 300 young adult women conducted at UMass Amherst to determine if differences in blood pressure are already evident in women experiencing PMS in their late teens and early 20’s.

“To our knowledge, this is the only prospective epidemiologic study of women with PMS in existence,” said Bertone-Johnson. “We will be the first to evaluate whether moderate to severe PMS may serve as an early predictor of future risk of hypertension. We hope to help identify a population of women who would benefit from increased screening and early intervention.”

The study may also lead to clinical trials of novels strategies for treating PMS, not only to reduce morbidity and improve quality of life in women with the disorder, but also to reduce their long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.