Stress has a bigger effect cardiovascular risk in women than in men

New evidence has highlighted how much more at risk women are from stress induced heart attacks than men.

The effects of psychological stress aren’t usually taken into account on a heart patient’s regular medical test, and this could potentially explain the trend that women are more likely to die as a result of a cardiovascular event than a man.

“There’s a very interesting paradox concerning young women and chronic heart disease. They have higher mortality and complication rates after heart attacks compared with men of the same age,” despite being slightly less at risk overall, according to Doctor Viola Vaccarino, the chairwoman of cardiovascular research and epidemiology at Emory University’s School of Public Health.

534 patients with coronary heart disease aged 38 to 79 were put through a mental stress test in addition to a conventional physical stress test, while their hearts were closely monitored.

The mental and physical tests were carried out on different days to make sure the effects of one did not affect the other.

Women aged 55 and under had a reduction in blood flow to the heart that was three times as bad as in men during the mental stress test.

Aged 56 and up, there was gradually less and less difference between the sexes in terms of reduction of blood flow to the heart.

“Women who develop heart disease at a younger age make up a special, high-risk group because they are disproportionately vulnerable to emotional stress,” Dr Vaccarino said.

Physicians now need to be aware of the importance of mental stress on the heart, especially in women. Exercise, counselling and stress management techniques like mindfulness have all been shown to be beneficial in terms of reducing stress.

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