Stressful Life Events Tied To Heart Disease In Older Black Women

heart disease

It’s no secret that stress can kill – and according to new research that also looked at whether a person’s resilience could help ward off the impact of stress – stressful life events were linked to higher incidents of heart attack, stroke and other types of cardiovascular disease in black women.

The study did not find a connection between resilience and cardiovascular disease, but its authors encouraged more research into that area and other potential links.

“Stress may be particularly relevant for black women, given the discriminatory environment in which these women may live. However, research on the relationship between stress and CVD (cardiovascular disease) among Black women is sparse,” according to the authors of an Ohio State University-led study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Among 10,785 Black postmenopausal women who were followed over an average of 12.5 years, those who experienced significant life events such as the death of a spouse or close friend, getting divorced, abuse, losing a job or having major financial problems were more likely to have a cardiovascular event.

Angina (chest pain) was the most common, followed by stroke, heart disease, and congestive heart failure.

Women who experienced stressful events had a higher risk of cardiovascular events at ages 55 and 65. But that same kind of stress was less likely to affect their cardiovascular disease risk as these women got older.

In addition, the connection between stress and cardiovascular events lessened after adjusting for traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, diabetes and lack of physical activity.

RELATED: What Every Black Woman Should Know About Heart Disease

“Stress might play a role in developing cardiovascular disease, but what’s even more important are the conventional risk factors that we already know about,” says study author Ashley Felix, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health in Columbus.

“So, in thinking about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, it’s never too early and it’s never too late to start eating right, exercising and quitting smoking because those are really the interventions that will make a meaningful impact in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.”

Researchers also explored the role of resilience, or the ability to bounce back from adversity.

Resilience wasn’t found to offset the association between stress and cardiovascular events, but Felix said that’s probably more a