Career women at greater risk of heart disease

The last few decades have seen a huge increase in the number of women working in high positions within large companies, and, like their male counterparts they are now placing themselves at higher risk of suffering heart attacks, according to a new study.

The figures make for scary reading, stating that women with stressful roles are almost twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. Heart attacks are not the only risk though and those with high pressure careers are also likely to have strokes, high blood pressure or cardiac arrest.

The American researchers have discovered that women whose roles require them to work ‘very hard’ but have no opportunities to use their creative skills increase the risk of heart disease by around 40 per cent.

Those in jobs with strict deadlines and little time to relax are increasing the chance of a heart attack by a scary 88 per cent. It is well documented that men in those high flying positions are at risk of stress and related illnesses but the research carried out by the Harvard Medical School in Boston indicates that women are equally as vulnerable, perhaps even more so as they often have the added tribulations of raising a family.

The study was presented to the American Heart Association’s annual conference in Chicago.  Further information showed that high-flying women were 43 per cent more likely to have heart surgery; including a bypass operation (blood flow is diverted from a blocked artery by creating a new artery using veins from another part of the body).

Using data collected from than 17,400 women in their 50s and 60s the analysts were able to compile their research accurately. Their summaries concluded that highly stressful roles that left no room for creative outlets put the subjects at highest risk, while women who feared over job loss were likely to become overweight, have increased blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr Michelle Albert, said: ‘We’re never going to be able to get rid of stress – some stress is positive, actually. The negative aspects of stress we’re going to need to learn how to manage.’

Dr Albert also feels that doctors should put work pressures in the same category as smoking and raised blood pressure when it comes to heart disease risks.

‘We need to start taking that seriously,’ she added.

She recommends that anyone in high pressure careers take measures to reduce risks such as regular exercise, a healthy social or family network and leaving the job at work.

Dr Peter Kaufmann, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Maryland, said, ‘This new data is among the most important to emerge in recent years concerning the relationship between job strain and cardiovascular health.’

Read our articles on coping with stress, stress related to heart risks, identifying stress in someone you know and how a good paternal relationship can help stress management.