Women who stress over work have more heart disease

Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:25am EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Women with stressful jobs that offer little room for decision making or creativity have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack -- and this is even worse than stressing over losing a job, according to a study.

The link between heart disease and job stress has long been well-established for men, but it wasn't clear if this held true for women as well, said Michelle Asha Albert, a heart doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

With women and heart disease, doctors usually focus on standard risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, but the study, which was presented at an American Heart Association meeting in Chicago on Tuesday, showed they might also want to consider stress.

"We don't focus as much on stress. Stress does cause a similar magnitude of risk as some of our additional risk factors," she told Reuters Health.

Albert led a research team that followed more than 17,000 female health professionals over a decade.

There were 134 heart attacks, and women with high-stress jobs were 88 percent more likely than their less stressed-out counterparts to suffer one. They were also more likely to have heart surgery.

But job insecurity -- worrying about losing a job -- did not seem to have the same impact.

Although there still isn't much data on whether stress reduction works, Albert suggested that women who are stressed out at work try to increase physical activity and develop a broader social network.

"It is something everybody should be worried about, not just women," Albert said.

(Reporting by Frederik Joelving at Reuters Health; Editing by Elaine Lies)

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