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Study shows job-related stress puts women at risk for heart problems

by nickj on November 15, 2010

A major study revealed that high levels of work-related stresses can increase a woman's risk of heart attack by 88 percent and increase their overall risk for other cardiovascular problems by 40 percent.

CBS correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton defined those under "job strain" as "people who felt they were in jobs with little or no decision making…[which] were very demanding jobs, and in particular didn't allow them to use their individual creativity," she said to the news source.

The findings, which were presented to the American Heart Association on Monday, were based on research that followed more than 17,000 healthy women with a median age of 57 for 10 years. According to CBS, most of the women were health-care professionals.

The study also addressed women facing 'job insecurity,' or those who fear losing their jobs. Job insecurity also puts women at risk for complications such as obesity and high blood pressure, but these particular stresses were not linked to heart attack or cardiovascular risk.

Dr. Andrew Pipe told the Toronto Star that sustained stress triggers the release of cortisol and other hormones that impact blood pressure and heart rate as well as stimulate plaque buildup in arteries. Pipe also acknowledged that the way an individual manages his or her stress levels might accelerate or counteract the side-effects of stress. For example, women who are under a lot of stress might seek comfort in eating and smoking, he told the news provider.

Ultimately, he told the news source, "I think it’s a question of all of us being cognizant of those stresses, recognizing what our work environment may induce in us and also how willing we are to induce those things ourselves."

The study was the first of its kind to specifically focus on women's health, though previous studies have found that job strain increases health risks for men as well, reports Businessweek.

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