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Study Reveals Traumatic Life Events May Negatively Impact Heart Health

Emma Goddard
by Emma Goddard Published on April 30, 2015

When life starts throwing one curveball after the next, it's difficult not to let the stress from your career, home life and finances get you down. And as it turns out, all those traumatic life events could even be harming your heart health, according to a new study from the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2015 Scientific Session.

Researchers for the study observed 548 women out of a larger group of 26,763 over a course of nine years to track any potential correlation between their heart health and the stress from their day-to-day activity. Women who had experienced heart attacks were compared to those who had not, while 267 women who had a history with heart attacks were also compared to 281 women of similar age who smoked.

Throughout this time period, the participants were also questioned about various traumatic life events from things like unemployment, to legal problems, to the loss of a loved one. From their studies, researchers found that such emotionally distressing events increased the risk for heart attack in middle-aged and older women by 65 percent.

"What we found was that by comparing women who reported having history of heart attack to women who did not have history of heart attack, in general, traumatic life events were related to higher a likelihood of heart attack," senior study author Michelle Albert, MD, MPH, Director of the Center for the Study of Adversity and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, told CBS News.

Additionally, Albert noted that independent of these traumatic events, women who earned a yearly salary of $50,000 or less were actually twice as likely to experience a heart attack.

"We don't know whether women are more physiologically vulnerable, as some prior research suggests that decreases in blood flow to the heart caused by acute mentally-induced stress are more common in women and individuals with less social support," Albert revealed in a statement. "“At the biological level, we know that adverse experiences including psychological ones can lead to increased inflammation and cortisol levels. However, the interplay between gender, heart disease and psychological factors is poorly understood.”

To learn more about this topic, visit the American Heart Association. Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.

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