Stress Worsens Heart Attack Recovery in Women

February 17, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Women tend to experience more stress after acute myocardial infarction, which can translate to a worse recovery, according to a new study.

Women tend to experience more stress after acute myocardial infarction (AMI), which can translate to a worse recovery, according to a new study.

While previous research has shown that younger age and female gender are associated with greater stress, there was limited data on how gender and age affect patients after an AMI, according to the present study’s authors.

Their new research, published in Circulation, found that women’s high stress was associated with worse recovery in angina-specific and overall quality of life and mental health following an AMI.

The research examined 3572 AMI patients—2397 of whom were women—with ages ranging from 18 to 55 years.

On average, women scored a 27 on the 14-item Perceived Stress Scale at baseline, compared with males’ lower sense of stress at 23.4. This scale measured responses to questions like, “In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” Respondents could choose never, almost never, sometimes, fairly often, or very often.

In the last month, women were more likely to report having experienced stress-inducing problems, such as major intra-family conflict, major personal injury or illness, and death or a major illness of a close family member.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to report stress from business failure, and they tended to experience more distress from financial hardship than women.

Overall, the researchers pinpointed comorbidities, physical health, mental health, family conflicts, and caregiving responsibilities as sources of stress for women.

Women also had significantly higher rates of diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic renal dysfunction, depression, and cancer.

The researchers suggested that more positive attitudes and better coping skills may aid recovery after an AMI.

Lead study author Xiao Xu, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine, told Pharmacy Times a couple ways pharmacists in which could apply these findings to their practice.

“Interactions between patients and pharmacists provide a unique opportunity for patient education,” Dr. Xu told Pharmacy Times. “Pharmacists can help promote patient awareness of the important role that stress plays in influencing health and heart attack recovery.”

Dr. Xu also said that pharmacists could help encourage more open dialogue about their patients’ stressful life situations. They could also provide educational materials about appropriate stress management skills, she suggested.