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The study involved 254 men and 56 women with stable heart disease who did three mentally stressful tasks: an math test, a mirror tracing test and an anger recall test.
Stress had a greater impact on blood pressure and heart rate in men, while women were more likely to experience decreased blood flow to the heart and increased clumping of blood cells associated with clot formation.
Women also had a greater increase in negative emotions and a larger decline in positive emotions while doing the stressful tasks, according to the study published Oct. 13 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"The relationship between mental stress and cardiovascular disease is well known," study author Dr. Zainab Samad, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, said in a journal news release.
"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," Samad said.
"At this point, further studies are needed to test the association of sex differences in the heart's responses to mental stress and long term outcomes," she added. "This study also underscores the inadequacy of available risk prediction tools, which currently fail to measure an entire facet of risk, i.e. the impact of negative physiological responses to psychological stress in both sexes, and especially so among women."
-- Robert Preidt
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