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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

For Women, Stress Can Slow Recovery From Heart Attack, Study Says


A study released in the journal Circulation found young and middle-aged women can have a harder time in various ways recovering from a heart attack than men. The study also found the poorer recovery was due in part to greater stress among women.

Dr. Mihaela Kruger, an interventional cardiologist who treats acute heart attack patients at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, talked about what contributes to the higher stress in KERA's consumer health series, Vital Signs.

From Dr. Kruger’s interview…

What contributes to the stress:  “In females, the responsibility of raising a young family, of having a job, in the current economic state of this country where there are many more single family households where females are the sole (person) responsible for raising children and for bringing an income, there is more stress associated with that. Also females tend to be more involved in caring for an older, aging parent. So, taking care of themselves, that’s becoming a secondary issue.

Are women more susceptible to heart attacks?  “Not necessarily more susceptible. Women who develop a heart attack the same age as men would tend to be more ill, would tend to have more illnesses. In general, heart disease occurs earlier in men. The average age, 45. And in females, a decade later after menopause. So younger females who do have heart disease tend to have more co-morbidities, we’ll be diabetics, we’ll be smokers, we’ll have other chronic illnesses that would contribute to overall poor cardiovascular health.”

What results of the study suggest about treatment of women with heart attacks: “It may be important to address this issue (stress) as well, not just the medications we prescribe, not just recommending ‘Yes, you need to see the dietitian about what you eat, but also about how much stress is in your life. Your social support system. Do you have enough help dealing with child care? With your parent that you’re caring for? So maybe we as doctors should start thinking about a more integrative approach where we involve, maybe, psychologists, social workers. I believe once you see a patient that has any risk factors for heart disease, you should raise these issues before a heart attack occurs.”

For more information:

Study in Circulation

Stress may affect women's recovery after heart attack 

Stress and Heart Attack Recovery in Younger Women 

Heart Attack Risk Assessment Tool

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.