Women's health * Healthy living

Work stress boosts heart disease risk in women

Young women most affected

High pressure jobs may boost young women’s risk of heart disease by as much as 50 per cent, a new study has found.

Past research has linked high pressure jobs with heart disease risk in men, but the latest findings suggest young women under pressure at work face a higher risk of heart disease later in life.

In the study, Danish researchers looked at the impact of work pressure on heart disease risk among 12,116 nurses aged between 45 and 64 in 1993. Hospital records were then used to track their health over the next 15 years.

Nurses who said their work their work pressure was a little too high were 25 per cent more likely to have heart disease compared with those who found their work pressure manageable.

But those who felt work pressures were much too high were almost 50 per cent more likely to have heart disease.

After taking into account known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and lifestyle, the risk fell to 35%, but was still significant, said the researchers.

When the findings were analysed by age, only the nurses under the age of 51 were found to be at significant risk of heart disease.

In addition, when the researchers looked at the data for the first five years of the study, they found the nurses' risk of heart disease was even higher. Nurses who felt most pressurised at work were almost twice as likely to have it than those who did not feel under pressure.

Dr Yrsa Anderson Hundrup from Glostrop University Hospital in Denmark said the study was one of the very few which shows how the psychological demands of work affects women's heart health.

June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Feeling under pressure at work means stressed employees may pick up some unhealthy bad habits and add to their risk of developing heart problems.

“Pressurized workers may reach for cigarettes, snack foods and alcohol to make themselves feel better.

“If you feel under pressure you should try and tackle it in a positive way and get active during work hours.

“Using the stairs and walking some of the way to work could help act as a stress buster and boost heart health too."

The research is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

This article was published on Thu 6 May 2010

Image © Olga Gabai - Fotolia.com

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