Stress may trigger more heart problems in women than men

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Women may be more likely to have heart trouble symptoms from being stressed than men, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine. The team presented its abstract, “Effect of Mental Stress on Coronary Blood Flow in Humans” this week at Experimental Biology 2012 in San Diego.

Penn State College of Medicine’s Chester A. Ray investigated the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart. His findings show that coronary blood flow actually increases in men during mental stress, but shows no change in women. These results may explain why women could be more susceptible to adverse cardiac events when under stress.

This differing characteristic could potentially predispose women to heart problems while under stress, said Ray. He added that the results came as a surprise, since previous studies showed that men have significantly less blood flow than women during the physical stress of exercise, and could explain why women tend to have more heart troubles after stressful events, such as losing a spouse. The findings also emphasize the importance of mental stress in affecting health.

“Stress reduction is important for anyone, regardless of gender,” he explained, “but this study shines a light on how stress differently affects the hearts of women, potentially putting them at greater risk of a coronary event.”

Other members of the research team are Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson and Terrell Myers.

Experimental Biology 2012 is a meeting of six societies: American Association of Anatomists, American Physiological Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society for Investigative Pathology, American Society for Nutrition, and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

For more information, see the meeting’s full press release at http://experimentalbiology.org/EB/pages/Press-Releases.aspx.

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Last Updated April 30, 2012