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Stress impacts men and women in different ways

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When exposed to mental stress, women and men demonstrate different vascular and psychological reactions. This is the conclusion of a US study published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC)”.

Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina examined 56 women and 254 men diagnosed with heart disease and who were already being treated. The study participants were asked to carry out three mentally stressful tasks, followed by a treadmill exercise test. During the mental tests and in the breaks in between, the researchers conducted echocardiography, took blood samples and measured the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate.

Men were more likely to react to mental stress with changes in blood pressure and heart rate, while women tended to experience myocardial ischemia and decreased blood flow to the heart. Women, in comparison to men, also reacted with increased platelet aggregation, the initial stage of blood clot formation. Moreover, women also reported increased negative emotions and decreased positive emotions during the mental stress tests.

“The relationship between mental stress and cardiovascular disease is well known. This study revealed that mental stress affects the cardiovascular health of men and women differently”, explained lead author Zainab Samad. “We need to recognise this difference when evaluating and treating patients for cardiovascular disease.”

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