Emotional Stress Takes Bigger Toll on Women's Hearts Than Men's

Women are more prone to a variety of emotional disorders, like anxiety and depression, and a new study shows that they're also more vulnerable to at least one physical effect of stress. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, discovered that women had three times more restriction of blood flow to their hearts than men when they were under mental stress.

The study, which included male and female adults age 55 and younger, only showed the effect when the stress had an emotional underpinning. The men's and women's bodies reacted the same amount of blood flow restriction when they were placed under physical stress.

Stress is a Danger for Everyone

While women may be more greatly affected by stress in certain ways, ongoing emotional stress is dangerous for both sexes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), potential effects include headaches, problems sleeping, irritability, depression, and digestive upset. It impairs your immune system, making you more prone to illnesses, and renders vaccines like the flu vaccination less effective. In the long term, it puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

You can deal with stress in a variety of ways that can fit into virtually anyone's lifestyle. These include meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization exercises, and having a strong social support system. Putting your energy into hobbies and other activities you enjoy, sharing your feelings, and even keeping a stress journal are other good strategies. NIMH also recommend exercising 30 minutes a day, avoiding drugs and alcohol, refusing to take on too many tasks, scheduling set times for relaxation, and asking for help from others when you need it.

If you're still experiencing unpleasant symptoms after trying your own stress management plan, talk to your doctor or a counselor. You may need professional assistance like counseling, medication, or a combined treatment approach.