ADULT HEALTH – Women in their 40s and early 50s who suffer from Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) might be at greater risk for Myocardial Ischemia (MI) than men of the same age group because of psychological stress, a recent study reveals.
Researchers from Emory University of Atlanta, Georgia which is one of the world’s leading research universities, found that women under 50 are more susceptible to mental stress-induced MI due to factors such as poverty, race, depression or anxiety, lack of education, or a history of sexual abuse, and possibly also everyday stressors such as taking care of their children and aging parents.
The study, which was presented at a recent meeting of the American Heart Association, involved 49 men and 49 women aged 39 to 59 who all had a heart attack during the past six months. Researchers tested their responses to exercise stress by doing the treadmill and mental stress by asking each one to speak on an emotional topic.
The results showed that…[pq]…young women had greater mental stress-induced ischemia than older women, while the gender difference was seen only with mental stress and lessened with age.[/pq]
There were no differences found in mental stress-induced ischemia between men and women over age 50; however, men over 50 were two times more likely to experience exercise-induced ischemia.
In addition, 52 percent of women under age 50 experienced mental stress-induced ischemia, while only 25 percent of men of the same age experienced the condition. Also, younger women in the study had higher levels of inflammation and their heart rate variability was also more likely to dip from stress compared with men.
Emory University research groups have been at the forefront in studies concerning gender differences in heart disease, previously indicating that women had higher mortality and complication rates after MI than men of the same age. And in a pilot study, they showed that in 100 CAD patients younger than 60 years old, women had higher rates of mental-stress–induced ischemia than men. In the current study, their aim was to establish whether this effect was specific to younger women.
“This is the first study to examine the cardiovascular effects of psychological stress as a possible mechanism for the greater mortality after myocardial infarction among younger women,” study researcher Dr. Viola Vaccarino, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the university’s Rollins School of Public Health, was quoted in online reports to have said in a statement.
“It is well known that ischemia with mental stress is often silent, so patients may have it during the day, but they may not realize it,” the Emory professor was also quoted to have said, and that future research might show that women with chest pain which goes away may have mental-stress–induced myocardial ischemia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is decreased by a partial or complete blockage of the heart’s coronary arteries thereby reducing the heart’s oxygen supply. Also called cardiac ischemia, the disease can cause serious abnormal heart rhythms and damage the heart muscle, decreasing its ability to pump efficiently. A sudden, severe blockage of a coronary artery may lead to a heart attack.
Coronary artery disease, on the other hand, develops when coronary arteries become damaged due to inflammation and cholesterol-containing deposits otherwise known as plaques. When plaques build up, the coronary arteries become narrow, decreasing blood flow to the heart and eventually causing chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, palpitations and fatigue. Because the disease often develops over decades, it can go unnoticed until a heart attack occurs.
Both ailments are preventable if an individual commits to a heart-healthy lifestyle that incorporates good nutrition, weight management, and plenty of physical activity.[pq]In the Philippines, heart diseases account for 21 percent of all deaths, according to recent data from the National Statistics Office (NSO)…[/pq]
…showing that five out of 10 deaths were of cardiovascular causes. The NSO reported that 100,908 people died of heart diseases in 2009, followed by cerebrovascular disease, cancer, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that an estimated 17 million people die of cardiovascular diseases yearly, most of which are heart attacks and strokes. The WHO also said that a substantial number of these deaths can be attributed to tobacco smoking, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet.
– Denn Meneses, Medical Observer