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Stress affects male and female heart differently

Impact of mental stress on heart varies for men and women, says a study.

While men have more changes in blood pressure and heart rate in response to mental stress, more women experience myocardial ischemia – decreased blood flow to the heart, it found.

For the results, researchers from the Duke Heart Centre at Duke University looked at 56 women and 254 men diagnosed with heart disease induced by mental stress.

“The findings revealed that mental stress affects the cardio-vascular health of men and women differently. We need to recognise this difference when evaluating and treating patients for cardio-vascular disease,” said Zainab Samad, study lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the Duke University in the US.

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 blood pressure and heart rate.

Researchers also found that women experienced a greater platelet aggregation, the precursor to the formation of blood clots, 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,” Samad informed.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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