Mentally stressed young women with heart disease have reduced blood flow to heart

November 16, 2014

Science Daily/American Heart Association

Young women with stable coronary heart disease are more likely than men of the same age to develop reduced blood flow to the heart if they're under emotional stress. Women 55 years and younger under mental stress had three times greater reduction in blood flow to the heart than men.


Compared to men of the same age, when subjected to a mental stress test, women:

·      age 55 and younger had three times greater reduction in blood flow to the heart;

·      age 56-64 had double the reduction in blood flow to the heart; and

·      age 65 and older had no difference in blood flow to the heart.


"Women who develop heart disease at a younger age make up a special high-risk group because they are disproportionally vulnerable to emotional stress," said Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D., study author and chairwoman of Cardiovascular Research and Epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia.


Women generally develop heart disease later in life than men. However, younger women who have premature heart attacks are more likely to die than men of similar age. Risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, don't explain these mortality differences.


Young and middle-age women may be more vulnerable to emotional stress because they face considerable burden of stressors in everyday life such as managing kids, marriage, jobs and caring for parents, Vaccarino said. Biology may also play a role -- for example, a greater propensity towards abnormal blood vessel function during emotional stress, such as exaggerated constriction of coronary or peripheral blood vessels.


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