You probably already know that men and women deal and react to stress differently. What you may not have realized is just how different we are when it comes to dealing with stress. And one of the keys appears to be how defensive we are:

Defensiveness is a trait characterized by avoidance, denial or repression of information perceived as threatening.

In women, a strong defensive reaction to judgment from others or a threat to self-esteem will result in high blood pressure and heart rate.

But in older men, the researchers found those with low defensive reactions have higher cardiovascular rates.

This is not a finding that has previously been noted in the research. Conventional wisdom would have expected that one’s defensiveness would have a similar impact on health, regardless of gender.

The researchers’ results also showed that women and older men had elevated cardiovascular, autonomic and endocrine responses to stress — all potentially damaging to their health.

The research team cautions, however, that more studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of defensiveness and its association to stress response patterns in disease development. Previous research has demonstrated a link between happiness and heart disease.

The upshot? If you’re a woman who’s strongly defensive or you’re a man who’s not very defensive, you’re at greater risk for your health. Learn different coping strategies that help either reduce or increase your defensiveness according to your gender, and you may just add a few years on to your life.

Read the full article: Gender and Age Affect Stress Response