By Emily Murray
Whether your are young or old, man or woman, stress is a daily part of life. In many ways it is a good thing, it motivates us to work harder, be aware of our surroundings and to stay on our toes. A new study however has shown that women may be even more damaged by it’s harmful affects than their male peers.
In fact, according to a CBS news article on the subject, heart disease is actually the number one killer of both men and women with some 600,000 people dying of its complications each year.
The new study that found that stress can cause more damage in women was a relatively small one, however its conclusion may help us better understand women’s cardiac health. Apparently when men undergo mental stress, their heart blood flow increases but when women experience these same sort of stressful moments, they don’t experience this change in blood flow. This simple fact may be largely responsible for the fact that women are more likely than men to suffer heart related complications in times of high stress.
Seventeen healthy adult men and women were monitored as part of the study. Their blood flow, blood pressure and heart rate were all recorded as they performed three minutes of mental arithmetic problems. While doing this, they were also being prompted to hurry by the researchers and were told if they came up with the wrong answer.
When measured in times of rest, there was very little variation between the basic health stats of both men and women involved. Once again, results were similar in both genders as they began trying to solve the math problems as their heart rates increased. Where they differed however is in blood flow. Men experienced an increase while women did not. So how does this impact overall heart health? This leads to more stress on the heart and may explain why women are more susceptible to heart problems after losing a loved one or spouse or after a particularly traumatic event.
Like most health studies, the encouraging news is that the more we know about the heart and how it works, the better prepared medical staff will be to help prevent and deal with future health problems.