Mental stress affects both genders. [iStockphoto]

Men are likely to suffer more mental stress than women thus exposing them to cardiovascular diseases for among other reasons; pressure to deliver and placing their self-worth into everything they do.

This leads to stress, anxiety and fatigue, yet maintaining a macho image amidst chaos restricts them from seeking help.   

Jackie Gathu, a counselling psychologist, says though mental stress affects both genders, men are more susceptible to mental breakdown from being conditioned to zip up their feelings

“If a girl is whining and crying, she will attract attention and sympathy but a boy will be told men don’t cry,” says Gathu adding that this makes men grow up thinking they are not supposed to speak about their weakness, struggles or insecurities.   

Men, for instance, suffer anxiety which starts in the mind as a feeling of impending danger but which affects performance if not addressed.

Gathu explains that feelings of insufficiency gets a man’s heart racing, hands sweating, and pupils dilating.

“Men need to understand that you cannot hide or pretend for long as the mask will fall off and expose all those struggles at some points,” she says advising that they seek help including therapy, which women do seek.

Men also need to share with friends, write journals or seek medical help as the stress may lead to health-related complications like cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Dan Gikonyo, a cardiologist, says the mind, heart and body are connected and cumulative evidence shows that stress increases the risk of heart diseases.

Depression predisposes people to heart attacks. [iStockphoto]

“When you are under stress, the body knows you are in danger and produces hormones to fight or take a flight,” he says of the chemicals called adrenaline- produced by the adrenal gland next to the kidney.

Dr Gikonyo notes that hormones are good in the acute form, but when chronically produced they become dangerous.

These two hormones raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and increase blood sugar and cholesterol, which may cause heart diseases.

World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally-with stroke as the number one killer condition in Kenya.

The Ministry of Health also notes that depression predisposes people to heart attacks and conversely heart attacks increase the likelihood of depression as a result of interactive effects.

Dr Bernard Gitura, also a cardiologist, reckons that though men and women suffer equally from stress-related cardiovascular diseases, women have a higher prevalence.

Dr. Gitura says depression is associated with severe obesity, physical inactivity and poor self-care- all risk factors for diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Gitura adds that patients with stress overeat to relieve stress, which leads to obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

“Stressed people have poor sleeping patterns, elevating their blood pressure,” says Dr Gitura adding that such people “may engage in alcohol or smoking to relieve stress which are risky behaviours.”  

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