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How mental stress affects heart health in men and women


mental stress affects heart health

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Mental stress affects heart health by causing the peripheral arteries and veins – in the arms, legs, hands and feet – to constrict. In people with heart disease, this constriction can cause a reduction of blood supply to the heart, known as ischemia.

Previous research has shown that ischemia during mental stress doubles the risk of heart attack or death from heart disease.

But does mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia (MSIMI) have the same effect on both men and women?

Researchers say that constriction of peripheral vessels can induce ischemia in the heart indirectly as the heart has to pump against resistance and in women, instead of dilating and increasing blood flow the arteries are constricted leading to reduce blood flow, making the heart work harder.

To investigate this, scientists from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia examined data from the Mental Stress Ischemia Mechanisms Prognosis study – a cohort of 678 patients with coronary artery disease and an average age of 63.

The participants delivered a speech while the researchers measured their blood pressure and heart rate.

The scientists also took imaging pictures of their heart and measured the constriction of arteries supplying blood in their fingers.

The researchers found that in women the reduced blood supply to the heart during mental stress was mainly due to the constriction of tiny peripherals vessels in reaction to mental stress. This can cause an increase in afterload – the force that the heart must exert to pump blood out of the heart.

In men, the reduced blood supply to the heart during mental stress was mainly due to the rise in blood pressure and heart rate during mental stress, which increased the workload on the heart.

Researchers say that constriction of peripheral vessels can induce ischemia in the heart indirectly as the heart has to pump against resistance and in women, instead of dilating and increasing blood flow the arteries are constricted leading to reduce blood flow, making the heart work harder.

This study emphasises the importance of finding ways to reduce psychological stress especially in people with heart disease, though various relaxation intervention methods and physical exercise.

Women need to understand that they are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress and need to find ways to protect their heart by relaxing and reducing stress.

The researchers advocate that health professionals must also investigate the complete psychosocial sphere and advice both men and women about interventions available for stress reduction, anxiety and depression.

There are plenty of ways to reduce stress when you’re feeling anxious and stressed such as taking a walk, practising yoga, exercising, getting a massage, enrolling in a hobby class, cooking or even a simple act like smiling can rid you of anxiety – much needed to protect your heart.

Source: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology



 

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!