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Women's Stress Management Could Protect Them From Disease

This article is more than 10 years old.

New research out of Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that men and women handle stress differently — and in ways that could explain why some illnesses affect one sex more often than the other.

When women are ovulating, the study (PDF) finds, they are flooded with hormones that help them deal with stress. That does not just mean they might feel less stressed-out; it could also mean they are being protected from certain diseases.

Jill Goldstein, the study's lead author, says this could explain why some illnesses strike men and women at different rates.

"For example, women are at higher risk for depression and anxiety disorders, but men are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and they both involve hormones," said Goldstein, the director of research for the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at the Brigham and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"So stress may be something that is not always subjectively felt," she added, "but may have major health and illness implications."

The finding could help scientists develop sex-specific treatments, such as medications specifically for women.

This program aired on January 12, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.

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