Battle of the Sexes: Health Alert
 

- Reported, May 04, 2012



 


 (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Stress can have many negative impacts in one’s life. While some can get it under control, others may have a hard time doing it and have to pay the price, especially if you are female! New research shows women are more likely than men to have symptoms of heart trouble after emotional upsets.

The researchers recruited 17 healthy adults, a near equal mix of men and women. Each volunteer had his or her heart rate and blood pressure measured at rest, as well as coronary vascular conductance, a Doppler ultrasound measure of blood flow through the coronary blood vessels of the heart.

These volunteers then underwent the same tests while participating in three minutes of mental arithmetic, in which the researchers had them sequentially subtract 7 starting with a random number. To increase the stress load, researchers lightly badgered the volunteers during the task, urging them to hurry up or telling them they were wrong even when they gave the correct number. At the end of the task, they underwent the same three heart function tests again.

Results showed that at rest, men and women showed little differences between the three tests. During the mental arithmetic task, all the volunteers showed an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, regardless of sex. However, while the men showed an increase in coronary vascular conductance under stress, the women showed no change. Searching for the reasons behind these disparities, Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson, Terrell Myers, and Chester A. Ray, all of Penn State College of Medicine, investigated the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart. Their 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," study leader Chester Ray was quoted saying. He adds that the results came as a surprise, since previous studies 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 reemphasize the importance of mental stress in affecting health.

"Stress reduction is important for anyone, regardless of gender," Ray was quoted saying, "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."

Further research, he adds, could discern the mechanism behind this difference, leading to more targeted treatments and prevention efforts for women at risk of coronary artery disease.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology