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Women more vulnerable to emotional stress following heart attacks

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While it has long been recognized that extreme stress can bring on a heart attack, more focus needs to be placed on the emotional impact experienced after one, especially among younger women according to Dr. Viola Vaccarino, Wilton Looney Chair of cardiovascular research in Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

After her recent study involving 49 men and women ages 38-50, Vaccarino found that having a heart attack had more of a psychological impact on women ages 50 years and younger, causing them to be twice as likely to experience more emotional stress afterwards than their male contemporaries. As a result they were more prone to suffer inadequate blood flow to the heart (Ischemia) than the men. All participants had suffered from heart attacks within 6 months prior to the study, and were subjected standard exercise, stress tests to measure cardiac responses to acute emotional disturbances.

While “concerns involving poverty, minority race and depression were more common among younger women, they did not adequately explain why they were more vulnerable to Ischemia, other than indicating that the females may be at more psychological risk from heart attacks,” Vaccarino stated.