Stressed-out men are more likely to suffer heart disease or stroke, regardless of other factors such as family history, body weight, high blood pressure and smoking.
Between 1974 and 1980, researchers in Sweden interviewed more than 13,600 middle-aged men and women about their stress levels over the previous 1–5 years. The researchers then followed these subjects through 1999. Participants who had reported chronic stress at the start were 14% more likely to develop heart problems or have a stroke, and men with chronic stress were twice as likely as their peers to die of a stroke, according to a study published in the May issue of the European Heart Journal. (2004; 25 , 867–73).
The researchers could not explain why the link was strong only in men or what the mechanism was for why stress increased risk. Some scientists believe that chronic stress impairs arterial function both directly and indirectly. Causes may range from chronically high levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream that can trigger vasoconstriction and raise blood pressure to an increased likelihood of unhealthy behaviors like smoking. What is clear is that stress management is valuable for enhancing health and more research needs to be done to determine the actual causal factors for increased risk.