The relationship between mental stress and cardiovascular disease is well known and well documented. However, how stress affects the heart differently in men and women has not been clear until now.
A study carried out tests on 254 men and 56 women, all of whom were diagnosed with heart disease. It required them to undertake mentally stressful tests, such as a frustrating mirror tracing test, an anger recall test, and a mental maths test. They were also required to do an exercise session on a treadmill.
Many tests were undertaken between the tests and sessions, including blood tests, blood pressure tests, and echocardiography, among others.
Men were recorded to have much greater differences in blood pressure and heart rate, whereas women were more likely to suffer from myocardial ischemia, which is a condition where the blood flow to the heart becomes restricted.
The findings from this study should prompt further trials to take a more in-depth look at the differences between the sexes and how stress can affect them independently. This could uncover important data when it comes to advising and diagnosing for treatment and stress management and tackling mental health issues.
Despite heart attacks being linked to stress for a long time, new aspects to this problem are still being uncovered. Mental illness is massively underfunded in the UK, and studies like this will hopefully help to improve the rates of care regarding it in the future.