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Mental stress ups risk of cardiovascular problems in women, says study

Mental stress ups risk of cardiovascular problems in women, says study

18 January | 0 Comments | By Arizona Mental Health Helpline Team

Women have for long been considered more vulnerable mentally than men. Now, a study published in December 2017 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology has revealed that mental stress leads to the constriction of peripheral vessels that affects heart circulation among women. Being more prominent among women, the problem increases the risk of developing heart-related complications.

The study also highlighted that the constriction of peripheral vessels increases the risk of reducing blood supply to the heart muscle called “ischemia.” These findings corroborate the fact that ischemia doubles the risk of heart attack and death in people grappling with stress.

Key findings of the study

The Mental Stress Ischemia Mechanisms Prognosis Study (MIPS) was conducted on 678 adults (average age 63) affected by a heart disease. The relevant data on blood pressure and heart rate was collected when the participants were delivering a speech. Additionally, researchers took images of their hearts and measured the constriction of tiny arteries supplying blood in their fingers.

While the researchers earlier found that reduced blood supply due to stress was more common in women aged below 50 years compared to men and older women, they found the following facts on further analysis:

  • The blood supply to the heart reduced in women during mental stress majorly due to the contraction of tiny peripheral blood vessels. This, in turn, heightened the risk of increase in the phenomenon of afterload wherein the heart exerts force to pump blood out of the heart.
  • Men faced a reduced blood supply during mental stress due to high blood pressure and heart rate. This, in turn, increased the workload on the heart.

Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and medicine at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia, said, “Our findings in the peripheral circulation also could reflect what occurs in the arteries in the heart. Instead of dilating and increasing blood flow to the heart during stress, in women the tiny blood vessels are constricted, leading to areas of reduced blood flow. Constriction of peripheral vessels can also induce ischemia in the heart indirectly, because the heart has to pump against increased resistance.”

The study results clearly indicate the need of including more women in similar studies, so that the results can be analyzed accurately. However, the only drawback of the study is that it could not identify whether mental stress caused the maximum number of heart attacks or worsened the health of heart in individuals.

Keep mental disorders away by reducing stress

The study emphasizes on the need to find significant ways to reduce mental stress. As stress is associated with both men and women, it is important for all to be aware of their vulnerability to mental stress. Hence, they need to take some effective measures to protect their heart. These may include relaxation techniques and regular exercise.

In case you know someone who is dealing with stress or affected by some form of mental illness, contact the Arizona Mental Health Helpline to help him or her in finding the details one of the best mental health treatment centers in Arizona. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-606-7791 or chat online with our representatives to know more about the state-of-the-art mental health disorder treatment centers in Arizona and other parts of the U.S.