Q. Who gets stress out more men or women?
A. Nov. 15, 2005 -- Constant stress at work or at home may be may be more dangerous for women than men, according to a new study that shows women are more sensitive to the effects of chronic stress.
"It's generally understood that females respond more strongly to acute (immediate, short-term) stress than males," says researcher Helmer Figueiredo, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati's department of psychiatry, in a news release. "Our research shows that this may also be the case in more clinically relevant chronic-stress conditions."
Researchers found levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were much higher in female rats exposed to chronic stress than male rats.
Corticosterone is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress in the same manner that the stress hormone cortisol is released in humans. When an animal experiences stress, these stress hormones are produced to aid the animal in survival and recovery.
"When appropriately handled by the body, stress can have beneficial implications in preparing the organism for the 'fight or flight' response," says Figueiredo. However, under intense chronic conditions, when extreme levels of these hormones are produced, stress can seriously harm the body.
For example, exposure to high levels of these stress hormones can lead to a bigger waistline, which is a major risk factor of heart disease, and impair the immune system's ability to fight disease and infection.
Stress Takes Heavier Toll on Women
In the study, presented today at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, researchers compared the effects of chronic stress in male and female rats. The rats were subjected to unpredictable and intense stress, such as vibration, being in a cold room, or a hot or cold swim, twice daily for 15 days.
The results showed that the exposure to chronic stress prevented normal weight gain in both male and female rats.
But the female rats had much more of the stress hormone in their bloodstream compared with the males.
In addition, chronically stressed female rats had a decrease in the weight of immune organs relative to male rats, suggesting their immune function may be more sensitive to the effects of chronic stress and became impaired.
"Serious disorders such as major depression, anxiety, and autoimmune dysfunctions, all linked to higher levels of circulating glucocorticoids (stress hormones), are more prevalent among women than men," says researcher James Herman, PhD, professor and stress neurobiologist at the University of Cincinnati, in the release. "This animal research provides a nice link between chronic stress and the physiological response to stress by females."
Researchers say a better understanding of the differences in how men and women respond to stress may lead to better drugs to fight stress-related diseases that affect women disproportionately.
Any personal health questions,Please consult your physician !
Glen Edward Mitchell
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