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Women’s Hearts are more affected by Emotional Stress than Men

Update Date: Nov 19, 2014 09:31 AM EST

Young women suffering from heart disease are more likely to be negatively affected by emotional stress than young men, a new study reported. Researchers added that in older patients, emotional stress affects both genders equally.

"There's a very interesting paradox concerning young women and chronic heart disease," said study researcher Dr. Viola Vaccarino, chairwoman of cardiovascular research and epidemiology at Emory University's School of Public Health in Atlanta, GA, reported in LiveScience. "They have higher mortality and complication rates after heart attacks compared with men of the same age," despite having fewer risk factors for heart disease, she said.

For this study, the researchers recruited 534 participants with stable coronary heart disease. The team measured the participants' blood flow to the heart via nuclear imaging when they were undergoing a mental health stress test. The test required them to recall a stressful event and talk about it in a group.

The nuclear imaging results revealed that women aged 55 and younger experienced reduced blood flow that was greater than men of the same age by three times. In women between the ages of 56 and 64, emotional stress led to a reduction in blood flow that was two times greater than the effect seen in men aged 56 to 64.

"Women who develop heart disease at a younger age make up a special high-risk group because they are disproportionally vulnerable to emotional stress," Dr. Vaccarino said in an AHA news release reported by Philly.

The researchers added that doctors should be aware of the impact that emotional stress can have on young female heart patients.

Dr. Vaccarino said, "If they note that their patient is under psychological stress or is depressed, they should advise the woman to get relevant help or support from mental health providers, stress reduction programs or other means."

After the age of 65, emotional stress appeared to affect men and women in the same way. The researchers also conducted a physical stress test and found no differences in female and male patients from all age groups.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

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