Mental Stress and Your Heart

Reduced blood flow to the heart may be more likely in young women with heart disease and mental stress

(RxWiki News) For younger women with heart disease, mental stress could have a big effect on their health, a new study found.

The researchers behind this study looked at 686 patients — 191 women and 495 men — who were between the ages of 34 and 79 and had coronary heart disease (CHD).

Young women with CHD and mental stress were more likely to experience myocardial ischemia when compared to men and older patients. Myocardial ischemia is reduced blood flow to the heart muscle, which can then lead to a heart attack. 

Dr. Viola Vaccarino, lead study author and Emory University professor, said in a press release that "Younger women tend to have quite a lot of stress in their lives. Many of them have full-time jobs and at the same time have numerous responsibilities at home; financial hardship, as well as depression and anxiety which are common in this group." 

Reduced blood flow due to stress occurred in 33 percent of the women who were 50 years old or younger, these researchers found. In fact, the study revealed that only 8 percent of men of similar age saw reduced blood flow due to stress.

In addition, reduced blood flow due to stress happened more in younger women than in older women. 

"Our findings suggest that women with heart disease in their 30s, 40s and early 50s are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of psychological stress on their heart,” Dr. Vaccarino said. 

This study's small size could limit the reliability of its findings, these researchers said, and further studies are needed.

Ask your doctor about ways to reduce your stress and how to maintain a healthy heart. 

This study was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. One of the authors received royalties from the sale of a quantitative tool used in this study. 

Review Date: 
August 26, 2016