Women who withhold their emotions may be at higher risk for stroke, study suggests

Women who bottle up their feelings instead of expressing them may be at a higher risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems, according to findings in a recent study.

The study, conducted by researchers with the North American Menopause Society, had 304 women who were in the early stages of menopause or who already went through menopause to evaluate their levels of emotional expression.

Researchers looked into whether “self-silencing,” or withholding one's emotions, was associated with greater plaque buildup in the heart that could lead to stroke or other issues.

Once the women were done self-reporting on a range of factors, such as how often they expressed anger, they underwent an ultrasound to evaluate the plaque in their arteries.

“They found that greater self-silencing was related to increased odds of plaque independent of socio-demographics, CVD risk factors, and depression,” a press release on the study stated.

While suppressing emotional expression has been linked to worse mental health and self-reported physical health in women – research on the effects it could have on cardiovascular health hadn’t been done.

“Studies like this one are valuable as they highlight the importance of understanding how a woman’s emotional disposition can affect her physical health,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of The North American Menopause Society. “These results should encourage healthcare providers to take into consideration socio-emotional factors when outlining a preventative care plan for their patients.”

While those results showed a correlation, it did not indicate that bottling up emotions directly causes strokes or other cardiovascular problems.

The findings were presented at an annual meeting of the society in Chicago.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.