Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Tend and Befriend" for Good Heart Health

A friend forwarded me this article today and I think it’s a relevant topic to this blog. I discuss heart health issues, and stress plays an important role in how healthy a person’s heart is.

According to a study conducted by UCLA, women respond to stress by making and maintaining friendships with other women. Scientists previously thought all people respond to stress with the “fight or flight” mechanism but it turns out that all stress-related studies have only been conducted only on men. If the studies had included women, they would have learned that “fight or flight’ is not always the case. Go figure…

According to the article,

In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as
part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response
and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When
she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more
oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming
effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because
testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under
stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to
enhance it.

Basically, instead of “fight or flight,” women have a “tend and befriend” notion that helps them to deal with stress.

I was thinking about this study and realized that when I get stressed out, I don’t seclude myself like so many of my guy friends seem to do. Instead, I call up one of my best friends and vent to her and usually request a girl’s night of movies, chocolate and talking. It’s really the only thing that makes me feel better and puts my mind (and heart) at ease.

If you're a woman, the next time you get stressed out, just remember to call a friend or loved one.

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