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Can a Woman's Job Raise Her Heart Attack Risk?

High-Stress Jobs May Boost Women's Heart Attack Risk
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High-Stress Jobs & Women: Perspective

The new findings differ from some previous research, says Mika Kivimaki, PhD, professor of social epidemiology, University College London. He reviewed the findings.

He has published reports on stress and cardiovascular disease. Researchers at University College London have led the long-running Whitehall Studies, also known as the Stress & Health Study, following more than 10,000 British men and women.

"It has been previously thought that high job demands increase cardiovascular disease risk only if an employee additionally has poor decision authority at work," Kivimaki says.

"This study of U.S. women is important because it suggests this might not be the case. Elevated cardiovascular risk was also seen among women who had demanding jobs combined with high job control."

However, he says the researchers just found a link between job stress and heart health, but cannot prove cause and effect.

It's difficult to take into account all the risk factors that may play in, says Peter Schnall, MD, MPH, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine.

He is also director of the university's Center for Occupational and Environmental Health program in work organization and cardiovascular disease.

"The field of stress research is only now focusing on job strains, but in the past 10 years another dozen serious work-related risk factors have been documented," he tells WebMD.

Among the most heart-hazardous factors? Working long hours, making low wages, and facing threats of harm, he says. For example, a bus driver.

Advice for Women With High-Stress Jobs

Women with high-stress jobs should pay extra attention to lifestyle, Albert says. A woman may focus on taking personal time, doing yoga or meditation, or even praying.

Most important? "Find the thing that works for you to reduce stress," she says.

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