WASHINGTON — There is a gender difference in cardiovascular and psychological reactions to mental stress, according to a study of men and women who were being treated for heart disease.

The study was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and examined 56 women and 254 men diagnosed with heart disease who were enrolled in a larger study of the impact of medication escitalopram on heart disease induced by mental stress.

To induce stress participants underwent a mental arithmetic test, a mirror tracing test, and an anger recall test. This testing was followed by a treadmill exercise test. During mental stress tasks and rest periods between tests, researchers from Duke Heart Center conducted echocardiography to study changes in the heart, took blood samples, and measured blood pressure and heart rate of the individuals.

They found that while men had more changes in blood pressure and heart rate in response to the mental stress, more women experienced myocardial ischemia, decreased blood flow to the heart.

Women also experienced increased platelet aggregation, which is the start of the formation of blood clots, more often than the men.

The women also suffered a greater increase in negative emotions and a greater decrease in positive emotions during the mental stress tests.

Dr. Aviva D. Wertkin, ND, said it is not news that men and women react differently emotionally, but what “is interesting to see how that correlates to our physiology and leading to pathology in the body.

Wertkin said

“What this indicates to me is, as a whole, we all need to be doing a better job on how we manage and process our emotional stressors”

Wertkin, who practices at Naturae Medical in Brattleboro, Vermont said what got her interested in naturopathic medicine is the “whole body-mind connection.”
She said she will be interested to see how this research will impact the endocrine component to health issues.


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