You probably know, or have at least assumed, that mental stress can affect your heart health. It certainly does. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the effects of mental stress on the heart differ between men and women.
Dr. Zainab Samad, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, conducted this study. She and her team examined 310 participants who had heart disease. Of the 310 participants, 56 were women, and 254 were men.
Dr. Samad asked the participants to complete three mentally stressful tasks: a mental-arithmetic test, a mirror-tracing test, and an anger-recall test. Then the participants ran on a treadmill.
The team measured the participants' blood pressure and heart rate during each task and during rest periods in between tasks. They also took blood samples and monitored their hearts with an echocardiogram.
The researchers found that the women were more likely to have myocardial ischemia, which is a blockage in the arteries that leads to reduced blood flow to the heart. They also had higher levels of platelet aggregation, which is an early stage in the formation of a blood clot. The mental stress also caused the women to feels more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions.
Men, however, had more changes in their blood pressure and heart rate than the women.
Dr. Samad reported, "The relationship between mental stress and cardiovascular disease is well known. This study revealed that mental stress affects the cardiovascular health of men and women differently. We need to recognize this difference when evaluating and treating patients for cardiovascular disease."
Another study, published in the European Heart Journal, reported an increased risk of heart attack or stroke for two hours following an angry outburst. Dr. Samad's study sheds light on the mechanism behind this increased risk, particularly for women.
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Because women are more susceptible to blood clots, they should be especially mindful of their diets during times of stress. We need to increase our intake of blood-thinning nutrients like vitamin E, omega-3 fats (from fatty fish), turmeric, and ginger root. And I recommend taking Circutol, a special formula designed to keep your blood flowing and not clotting.
But the best blood thinner is water. When you're dehydrated, your blood thickens and clumps together, forming clots. So the next time you start to feel mentally agitated, grab a large glass of water. You'll help your blood stay thin while also taking a mental pause to help yourself calm down.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 13 October 2014.