While more men than women are diagnosed with coronary artery disease every year, a new study sponsored by the American Physiological Society has found that women have an increased risk for heart problems when under stress.

Researchers wanted to find out why the statistics didn't seem to be consistent. They gathered 17 men and women together and took their heart rate and blood pressure while at rest as well as their coronary vascular conductance, which measures the blood flow through the coronary blood vessels of the heart. Afterward, the participants underwent three minutes of mental math, in which researchers tried to distract and confuse them. They were asked to hurry up and were even told that their answers were wrong even though they were right.

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Results showed that, while at rest, there appeared to be no significant difference between men and women. After being subjected to stress, however, researchers noted that while the blood flow to the heart increased in men, the same could not be said for the women. In fact, there didn’t seem to be much of a change at all. This is probably why women under duress are more likely to develop heart problems.

Despite the discrepancy, researchers want to make it clear that both men and women should try to avoid stress whenever they can. No matter who is more vulnerable to it, the fact remains that stress is unhealthy.

(Photo by catheroo via Flickr Creative Commons)

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