Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Identify Pathways of Risk Linking Psychosocial Stress to Ischemic Heart Disease in Women

Women differ from men in their manifestations of ischemic heart disease (IHD). They also differ from men with respect to prevalence of psychosocial factors and vulnerability to specific mental disorders. Young women, in particular, appear to be highly susceptible to the adverse cardiovascular effects of psychosocial stress. Those who already have clinical manifestations of IHD display high psychosocial burden which could affect their prognosis. Thus, psychosocial risk factors, in particular depression, early life stress, socioeconomic disadvantage, and PTSD, may be key in defining a path of vulnerability for IHD early in women’s lives, even if the disease manifests later.

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC

The study of young women from the community, and women with early-onset IHD, could be critical in uncovering women-specific pathways of IHD risk related to psychosocial stress. Investigations of the association between psychosocial factors and IHD should include sufficient numbers of young and middle-aged adults, and rather than only adjusting for sex, should conduct analyses stratified by sex. If psychosocial stress is a major risk factor for early-onset IHD in women, then psychosocial interventions specifically tailored to address women’s stressors and applied early in women’s lives should be especially helpful in improving or reverting IHD risk in this group. Most psychosocial or drug treatment interventions for depression have not been effective for improving IHD outcomes particularly among women, suggesting that more attention should be given to psychosocial pathways specific for women and to the identification of vulnerable subsets.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC

Calls for proposals for mechanistic studies and intervention trials targeted to young women and men at risk for IHD or sampled according to different exposure levels should be a feasible starting point to investigate this area and begin identifying vulnerable subgroups and sex differences.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea Viola Vaccarino



2 net votes
3 up votes
1 down votes
Idea No. 1055