SUNDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Women who have taxing jobs
with little control over their busy days are at higher risk for
heart attacks or the need for coronary bypass surgery, new research
Furthermore, worrying about losing one's job also raised the
odds of having cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high
blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels -- but not actual
heart attacks, stroke or death, the researchers said.
The study, presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the
American Heart Association in Chicago, breaks new ground for being
one of the first to look at the effect of work-related stress on
women's health. Most previous studies have focused on men and, yes,
those studies found that job stress upped males' odds for
cardiovascular disease, too.
Women comprise roughly half of the U.S. workforce today, with 70
percent of all women holding some kind of job, said study senior
author Dr. Michelle A. Albert, an associate physician at Brigham
and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Albert and her colleagues looked at more than 17,000 female
health professionals, with an average age of 57, who showed no
signs of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study.
Participants responded to statements about how draining their
job was, such as -- "My job allows me to make a lot of decisions on
my own" or "My job requires that I learn new things" or "My job
requires working very fast."
"Job strain [involving] psychological demand and decision latitude are tied into the concept of skill, how you are allowed to be at your job, is your job repetitive, does it require you to work at a fast pace," explained Albert.
Over 10 years of follow-up, the researchers noted that women
with high job strain -- demanding jobs over which they had little
control -- were more likely to be sedentary and to have high
cholesterol. They were also at almost double the risk for a heart
attack and at a 43 percent higher risk to undergo a bypass
procedure. The researchers found no significant link between job
strain and either stroke or risk for death.
Women with job insecurity (fear of job loss) were not more
likely to have a heart attack or other event, but they were more
likely to have several risk factors for cardiovascular problems,
including physical inactivity, high cholesterol, hypertension or
diabetes. They were also more likely to weigh more.
When it came to health, how demanding a job was seemed to trump
how free women were to make decisions or to use their
"In our particular cohort of female health professionals, the 'demand' component of this model appeared to be driving the vascular risk and less so the control factor," Albert stated.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said: "This is the first time
that we are seeing the realities of the fact that women are in the
workforce just as much as men but oftentimes are not in a position
of management. And it's not just necessarily working but the nature
of what the job is like."
It should be noted that this study highlighted an apparent
association between job stress and heart trouble for women, and did
not prove a cause and effect.
A second study, also presented at the meeting, found that, if
you're a woman, there may be such a thing as sleeping too long,
although perhaps not sleeping too little, when it comes to heart
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health tracked the
sleep habits and stroke incidence of almost 70,000 women for 20
They reported that women who slept for 10 hours or more had a 63
percent higher risk of suffering a stroke, and a 55 percent hiked
risk when other factors such as blood pressure were taken into
account. Women who slept seven hours -- the median amount of sleep
reported in the study -- had the lowest risk of stroke.
Short sleep duration didn't seem to matter: Even women who slept
six or fewer hours a night were not at heightened stroke risk, the
Previous research had suggested the opposite, the research team
There's more on women and heart disease at the
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