High Job Stress = Increased Risk For Cardiovascular Disease

Women who report having job stress have a 40 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease – including heart attacks as well as the need for procedures such as angioplasty – in comparison to those with low job strain.

Furthermore, the fear of losing one’s job was one of the main contributors in increasing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women, including high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and excess body weight. However, heart attacks, stroke, invasive heart procedures or cardiovascular death, researchers say, were not directly associated.

Did you know that 75% to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints? Usually, these complaints stem from little to no decision-making authority or opportunity to use their creative or individual skills.

“Our study indicates that there are both immediate and long-term clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women,” which Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s senior author and associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts was quoted as saying. “Your job can positively and negatively affect health, making it important to pay attention to the stresses of your job as part of your total health package.”

Albert and her team analyzed job strain in 17,415 healthy women – predominantly Caucasian health professional with an average age of 57 – to see how their daily work anxiety was associated with increased risk for heart disease. In a 10 year span to track the development of cardiovascular disease in these women, researchers used a standard questionnaire to evaluate job strain and job insecurity with statements such as: “My job requires working very fast.” “My job requires working very hard.” “I am free from competing demands that others make.”

Ultimately, women who reported high job strain were 40 percent more likely to have heart attacks, ischemic strokes, coronary artery bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty and death. The increased risk of heart attack was approximately 88 percent, while the risk of bypass surgery or invasive procedure was around 43 percent.

“Women in jobs characterized by high demands and low control, as well as jobs with high demands but a high sense of control are at higher risk for heart disease long term,” said Natalie Slopen, Sc.D., lead researcher and a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University Center on the Developing Child in Boston.

Previous research on the effects of job strain was more focused on men and had a restricted set of cardiovascular conditions. “From a public health perspective, it’s crucial for employers, potential patients, as well as government and hospitals entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate programs to alleviate job strain and perhaps positively impact prevention of heart disease,” Albert concluded.

SOURCE: The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2010,

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