While some women speak out about their feelings, other don’t talk about them — and that “self-silencing” could affect their health.
Women who tend to keep quiet about their feelings may be at risk for a stroke and other cardiovascular risks, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of The North American Menopause Society this week.
Researchers asked women to fill out surveys to measure their overall level of emotional expression. Then, using ultrasound imaging, they looked at the amount of plaque buildup in their neck arteries. If the blood supply to the brain from these carotid arteries is cut off, it may lead to a stroke — a leading cause of death.
“We found that women who tended to self-silence more demonstrated highest levels of carotid plaque,” said Dr. Karen Jakubowski.
The author believes the study points to an important association between emotion and physical health.
“Our results suggest the importance of supporting women toward greater self-expression in their intimate relationships,” Jakubowski said.
She noted this may involve physicians helping women learn how to communicate their needs, and choosing relationships that allow them to express their feelings.
She also cautioned that, while expressing emotions and higher stroke risk seem linked, “We cannot say that one causes another.”