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Stress-related blood flow problems affect men, women differently

By Tauren Dyson
Stress-related blood flow problems affect men, women differently
New research suggests differences in how stress affects the cardiovascular system in men and women. Photo by ronstik/Shutterstock

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Women have higher rates of a certain stress-related heart illness than men, with a new study suggesting sex-specific effects of mental stress require further research.

A study published in the November edition of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine reports that 20 percent of women examined for the study suffer from myocardial ischemia, or MSIMI, versus 15 percent of men.

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To explore the gender differences in the effects of MSIMI, researchers from Emory University School of Public Health and School of Medicine studied 276 men and women under age 61 who recently suffered heart attacks.

"There is growing evidence that psychosocial stressors may promote the development and progression of cardiovascular disease in susceptible individuals," the researchers report.

MSIMI is brought on by mental and emotional stress that causes poor blood flow to the heart in some people with coronary artery disease.

The researchers found that MSIMI strikes women in a different way than it does men.

Major coronary artery plaque buildup seemed to trigger MSIMI in men, while something else brought on MSIMI in women.

Researchers suspect that microcirculatory dysfunction, the break down of smaller coronary blood vessels or other abnormalities in women might bring on MSIMI.

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"These results suggest that MSIMI must be driven by alternative mechanisms especially among women, and provide motivation for further research to understand sex-specific mechanisms for the effects of mental stress on myocardial ischemia and long-term outcomes."

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