PITTSBURGH — Speak up for your health! A new study found that women who self-silence — or  to protect relationships and to avoid conflict are impacting more than their own mental health. They are putting themselves at higher risk for stroke and other cardiovascular health issues.

Research conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh discovered a link between self-silencing and increased carotid plaque buildup that could lead to a stroke or other heart problems.

“Given increased public health interest in women’s experiences in intimate relationships, our results suggest that women’s socio-emotional expression may be relevant to their cardiovascular health,” says lead study author Karen Jakubowski.

While it is understood that women who inhibit their own self-expression have poorer mental health and worse self-reported physical health, researchers say this is the first study to examine the link between self-silencing and women’s cardiovascular health.

Researchers studied 304 perimenopausal and postmenopausal non-smoking women, who were questioned on a number of self-expression factors, such as how often they put others needs ahead of their own and how often they expressed anger. Ultrasound images quantified carotid plaque in participants.

The authors saw a pattern between self-silencing and higher amounts of plaque, and this was independent of cardiovascular risk, socio-economics and such mental health factors as depression. In summation, these individuals think that they are simply preserving the peace, but in reality they are sacrificing their own health.

Researchers say the study results emphasize the important relationship between emotions and physical health. They want to see healthcare providers place more consideration on socio-emotional factors when developing preventive health care plans with patients.

Women could take some advice from Madeleine Albright who once quipped, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Study results were presented at the 2019 North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

About Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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