Harlan M Krumholz MD, SM
Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Professor of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, of Investigative Medicine and of Public Health (Health Policy); Co-Director, Clinical Scholars Program; Director, Yale-New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation New Haven, CT 06510
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Prior research of heart attack has mostly examined older patients, while few studies have focused on younger patients. Although we know that younger women differ from men and older patients in heart attack etiology and mortality, there is limited data on non-mortality outcomes of younger women and factors influencing their recovery. Mental stress is a particularly relevant factor for younger women as prior research showed higher stress in women than in men and an inverse association between age and stress. Therefore, in this study, we compared women and men 18-55 years old with heart attack and examined gender difference in mental stress and its potential role in explaining the worse recovery in women.
We addressed these questions using data from the Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients (VIRGO) project, which is the largest prospective observational study of young and middle-aged women and men with heart attack and has comprehensive information on patients’ clinical and psychosocial characteristics. Our findings showed significantly higher stress in women than in men. Moreover, mental stress is associated with worse recovery in multiple health outcomes 1 month after heart attack, such as angina-specific and overall quality of life. The greater stress in women may partially contribute to their worse recovery.