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Women are eight to nine times more likely to experience stress cardiomyopathy than men. The average age of those affected is around 60 years old. While it can also occur in young women and even in men, the vast majority of the patients we have seen with this are post-menopausal women. One theory is that estrogen protects the heart against stress hormones at younger ages. After menopause, when estrogen levels drop, women no longer have that protection.
Other risk factors include a history of depression, an individual’s personality type, and genetics. Researchers are still trying to determine what makes one person more susceptible to stress cardiomyopathy than others.
In the general population, up to twp percent of people who are initially thought to be suffering from heart attacks are, in fact, experiencing stress cardiomyopathy. When looking at the female population alone, this number increases to five to seven percent. As doctors learn more about this condition, they will be more able to distinguish between heart attacks and stress cardiomyopathy. However, this distinction is often not immediately evident, so any patient who presents themselves to a hospital with heart attack-like symptoms will be treated as having a heart attack.