Stress Harms the Heart More in Women than Men
When peripheral blood vessels constrict during times of mental stress, the effect on circulation is greater in women with heart disease than in men with heart disease, finds a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association. This effect could raise the risk of stress-related cardiovascular events and death in women.
Peripheral blood vessel constriction can lead to a condition called ischemia, in which the heart muscle does not receive enough blood to work properly. Ischemia caused by stress can double the risk for heart attack and death from heart disease, according to researchers. In the Mental Stress Ischemia Mechanisms Prognosis study, 678 adults with heart disease (average age 63) delivered a speech while researchers measured their blood pressure and heart rate, took images of their hearts, and measured constriction of peripheral arteries supplying blood to their fingers.
The researchers discovered that stress-related reductions in the heart’s blood supply in women was mostly influenced by peripheral blood vessel constriction. This constriction can lead to an increase in “afterload” – the force the heart must exert to pump blood out. In men, stress-related reduction in the heart’s blood supply was mostly influenced by increases in blood pressure.