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Feb 13, 2015 04:42 PM EST

Stress May Be Linked To Worse Recovery In Women After Heart Attack

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New research suggests that stress makes it more difficult for women to recover from a heart attack.

Researchers at Yale University found that young and middle-aged women experience more stress than their male counterparts, which could contribute to worse recovery from acute myocardial infarction (AMI).

"Women tend to report greater stress and more stressful life events than men, potentially because of their different roles in family life and work, as compared to men," Xiao Xu, first author of the study, said in a statement. "This difference in the level of stress may be an important reason for sex-based differences in recovery after acute myocardial infarction."

For the study, Xu and colleagues collected and analyzed data from the Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender Outcomes on Young AMI Patients (VIRGO) study, which involved a diverse network of 103 hospitals in the United States, 24 in Spain and 3 in Australia from 2008 to 2012.

They found that compared with men, women had significantly higher rates of diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic renal dysfunction, depression, and cancer, as well as previous stents, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Women were also more likely to have children or grandchildren living in their household, while experiencing greater financial strain.

"This study is distinctive in focusing particularly on young women and going beyond traditional predictors of risk to reveal how the context of these people's lives influences their prognosis," Harlan M. Krumholz, senior author of the study, said in a statement. "Helping patients develop positive attitudes and coping skills for stressful situations may not only improve their psychological well-being, but also help recovery after AMI. Stress management interventions that recognize and address different sources of stress for men and women would be beneficial."

The findings are detailed in the journal Circulation

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