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Protein Males Have But Females Don't Offers Clues to Stress
 Stress Feature Story

Protein Males Have But Females Don't Offers Clues to Stress
Finding in animals may lead to gender-based treatments

Protein Males Have But Females Don't Offers Clues to Stress

(HealthDay News) -- In medicine, what you don't have sometimes has as great an effect as what you do have -- which may be the case with stress.

Researchers believe that concept might explain why women are twice as likely as men to develop stress-induced illness, such as depression.

In a study in rats, they found that males get some protection from stress because they have a protein that regulates and diminishes the brain's stress signals. It's a protein that females lack.

What's more, the researchers also found that a second protein -- one that helps process such stress signals more effectively, rendering them more potent -- is much more effective in females than in males.

Though the findings were in animals, the report published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry suggested that, if the same proves true in humans, it could lead to the development of new drug treatments that target gender-driven differences in the molecular processing of stress.

In the meantime, women and men alike need to find ways to manage stress, which the American Heart Association describes as the body's response to change.

Stress has been shown to be a very individual thing. A situation that one person finds stressful may not bother someone else. One person might become tense when driving, whereas someone else might find driving a source of relaxation and joy. Something that causes fear in some people, such as rock climbing, may be fun for others.

Not all stress is bad, either. Speaking to a group or watching a close football game can be stressful, but they can be fun, too. Life would be dull without some stress. Health experts say that the key is to manage stress properly because unhealthy responses to it can lead to health problems.

In fact, they say, it's important to get a handle on your internal reaction to events -- how you handle stressful situations emotionally and psychologically. If need be, try to change this over time. The Heart Association suggests you consider:

  • Taking 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful picture.
  • Trying to learn to accept things you can't change. You don't have to solve all of life's problems.
  • Talking out your troubles and looking for the good instead of the bad in situations.
  • Engaging in physical activity regularly. Do what you enjoy: walk, swim, ride a bike or jog to get your big muscles going. Letting go of the tension in your body will help you feel better.
  • Limiting alcohol, not overeating and not smoking.
  • Thinking ahead about what might upset you. Then, if possible, avoid those things. For example, spend less time with people who bother you.
  • Thinking about problems and trying to solve them. Talk to your boss about difficulties at work, talk with your neighbor if his barking dog bothers you or get help when you have too much to do.
  • Staying positive. Try to avoid being negative.
  • Learning to say no. Don't promise too much.
  • Giving yourself enough time to get things done.

On the Web

To learn more about managing stress, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Molecular Psychiatry, news release, June 15, 2010; American Heart Association (

Author: Anne Thompson

Publication Date: July 31, 2011

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