Researchers have previously linked stress and heart strain, but haven’t looked in detail at how stress impacts women, specifically. Especially as an anxiety epidemic continues to sweep the nation, it’s important to understand how all this stress impacts our health.As study author Michelle Albert told Good Morning America: “We’re all stressed out, but we’re talking about strain or stress that’s above and beyond the body’s ability to handle it,” Albert said.
The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, looked at 22,000 women from health care fields (including nurses, doctors and other health professionals) as a part of the ongoing, decade long Women’s Health Study. They analysed heart health data and information provided by the participants about how stressful they find their job.
They found that women who said their jobs were highly demanding and stressful were 38 per cent more likely to have a heart problem than women who reported low job strain. This adds to findings from previous studies have linked women with active jobs to an increased risk of stroke.
Two major ways that stress leads to heart issues, from Good Morning America:
- High levels of stress hormones can lead to heart risk factors such as higher blood pressure, a build-up of plaque inside the arteries and increased insulin resistance.
- Stressed people may also be more likely to smoke, drink excessively, or have poor eating and sleeping habits, all of which have been associated with heart problems.
- Women in demanding jobs may find less time to take care of their health and decrease their stress, especially through activities like exercise
One note about the study, though: Most of the participants were white women, which makes it difficult to generalize the findings to other races.
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