Women With Stressful Jobs At High Heart Attack Risk

By Amir Khan on July 19, 2012 10:26 AM EDT

A Woman with a Cup of Coffee
For women, having a stressful job may do more than just make you want to pull your hair out. According to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, women who work stressful jobs are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or other heart-related issues. (Photo: Reuters)

For women, having a stressful job may do more than just make you want to pull your hair out. According to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, women who work stressful jobs are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or other heart-related issues.

Researchers looked at data from the Women's Health Study, in which more than 22,000 female health professionals were tracked over 10 years. They found that those who had high stress jobs were much more likely to suffer a heart attack.

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"Women who had high-strain jobs had a 40 percent higher likelihood of having a cardiovascular event compared to women who were in the low-strain category," Dr. Michelle A. Albert, study author and  a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told WebMD.

"High strain is defined as high demand and low control," she said, such as a factory worker who is under a lot of pressure.

However, research also showed that women who reported having a high amount of control in their jobs experienced strain and elevated heart risk, researchers said, which contradicts previous findings. Having control over your job typically means you are in a position of authority, and researchers said in this situation, women could be under pressure to perform well since there are few women in these positions to begin with.

"It has been previously thought that high job demands increase cardiovascular disease risk only if an employee additionally has poor decision authority at work," Mika Kivimak, professor of social epidemiology at University College London, told WebMD."This study of U.S. women is important because it suggests this might not be the case. Elevated cardiovascular risk was also seen among women who had demanding jobs combined with high job control."

Women who rated their jobs as high strain were 67 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 38 percent more likely to have a stroke or high blood pressure, researchers said.

"The stress we're talking about here is stress that exceeds the body's capacity to manage or adapt appropriately," Albert told Fox News.

What surprised researchers was that job insecurity was not linked to an increased risk of heart attack or stress.

"It may be that job insecurity has become the norm," Rudy Fenwick, a sociology professor at the University of Akron in Ohio, who was not involved in the study, told Fox News. "[People] don't expect to be employed with the same employer throughout the career."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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