Impact of mental stress on heart varies between men, women

October 13, 2014
This graphic shows the effects of mental stress on psychophysiological domains, myocardial ischemia, and outcomes in men and women. Credit: Zainab Samad et al. Sex Differences in Platelet Reactivity and Cardiovascular and Psychological Response to Mental Stress in Patients With Stable Ischemic Heart Disease: Insights From the REMIT Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(16):1669-1678.

Men and women have different cardiovascular and psychological reactions to mental stress, according to a study of men and women who were already being treated for heart disease. The study, published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at 56 women and 254 men diagnosed with heart disease enrolled in a larger REMIT study of the impact of the medication escitalopram on heart disease induced by mental stress.

After undergoing baseline testing, participants carried out three mentally stressful tasks—a mental arithmetic test, a mirror tracing test, and an anger recall test—followed by a treadmill exercise test. During mental stress tasks and rest periods between tests, researchers conducted echocardiography to study changes in the heart, took blood samples, and measured and .

Researchers from the Duke Heart Center found that while men had more changes in blood pressure and heart rate in response to the mental stress, more women experienced myocardial ischemia, decreased blood flow to the heart. Women also experienced increased platelet aggregation, which is the start of the formation of blood clots, more than men. The women compared with men also expressed a greater increase in negative emotions and a greater decrease in positive emotions during the mental stress tests.

"The relationship between mental stress and is well known," said the study lead author Zainab Samad, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina. "This study revealed that mental stress affects the cardiovascular health of men and women differently. We need to recognize this difference when evaluating and treating patients for cardiovascular disease."

"At this point, further studies are needed to test the association of sex differences in the heart's responses to and long term outcomes," Samad said. "This study also underscores the inadequacy of available risk prediction tools, which currently fail to measure an entire facet of risk, i.e. the impact of negative physiological responses to psychological stress in both sexes, and especially so among women."

Explore further: Mental stress may be harder on women's hearts

Related Stories

Mental stress may be harder on women's hearts

April 26, 2012
Coronary artery disease continues to be a major cause of death in the U.S., killing hundreds of thousands of people per year. However, this disease burden isn't evenly divided between the sexes; significantly more men than ...

Young women more affected than men by emotional stress after heart attack

March 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Younger women with a recent heart attack are more likely than men of the same age to experience myocardial ischemia, or inadequate blood flow to the heart, in response to emotional stress according to researchers ...

After heart attack, mental stress affects the heart more in women under 50

November 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers have found that women younger than 50 with a recent heart attack are more likely to experience restricted blood flow to the heart (myocardial ischemia) in response to psychological stress.

Antidepressant reduces stress-induced heart condition

May 21, 2013
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

Study links depression to arterial stiffness during stress

March 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—According to a study by researchers at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, symptoms of depression are associated with an increase in arterial stiffness induced by mental stress. Arterial stiffness ...

Recommended for you

Tension makes the heart grow stronger

September 25, 2017
By taking videos of a tiny beating zebrafish heart as it reconstructs its covering in a petri dish, scientists have captured unexpected dynamics of cells involved in tissue regeneration. They found that the depleted heart ...

Gene therapy improved left ventricular and atrial function in heart failure by up to 25 percent

September 25, 2017
Heart function improved by up to 25 percent in a trial using gene therapy to reverse cardiac damage from congestive heart failure in a large animal model, Mount Sinai researchers report. This is the first study using a novel ...

Laser device placed on the heart identifies insufficient oxygenation better than other measures

September 20, 2017
A new device can assess in real time whether the body's tissues are receiving enough oxygen and, placed on the heart, can predict cardiac arrest in critically ill heart patients, report researchers at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Metabolism switch signals end for healing hearts

September 19, 2017
Researchers have identified the process that shuts down the human heart's ability to heal itself, and are now searching for a drug to reverse it.

Beta blockers not needed after heart attack if other medications taken

September 18, 2017
A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds beta blockers are not needed after a heart attack if heart-attack survivors are taking ACE inhibitors and statins. The study is the first to challenge ...

Which single behavior best prevents high blood pressure?

September 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—You probably already know that certain healthy lifestyle behaviors can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, but is any one behavior more important than the others?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.