A new study shows that women who have hypertension and work in a physically demanding job are more likely to develop ischemic heart disease, compared to women with less demanding jobs and normal blood pressure. This latest study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
In the US, the leading cause of heart attacks in women is heart disease, accounting for nearly 30% of deaths each year. In previous studies it has been shown that physically demanding jobs increase the risk for heart disease in both genders.
In this latest study, researchers from Denmark set out to determine if physically demanding jobs in women with hypertension could worsen risk for heart disease. They analyzed blood pressure and physical activity in 12,093 female nurses who were part of the 1993 Danish Nurse Cohort Study. The nurses were allocated to one of three groups depending on the physical demands of the job. They were followed up for 15 years during which time 580 developed ischemic heart disease. Almost 12% of the nurses had high blood pressure.
Among the nurses that developed heart disease, more than 46% reported high physical activity at work.
The researchers further confirmed their observations by finding 60 additional cases of heart disease per 10,000 person years with such a combination. For comparison, just having high blood pressure was only found to account for 15 cases of ischemic heart disease per 10,000 person-years, whereas high physical activity was responsible for an additional 5 cases per 10,000 person years.
The director of the study, Dr. Alleose stated, “This implies that there is an additive interaction between hypertension and high physical activity at work. The two risk factors appear to work together, resulting in an even greater incidence of heart disease. It means hypertensive women with physically demanding work may be especially at risk of heart disease. To our knowledge, this has not been shown before among women.”
While the researchers did observe a mild increase in risk of ischemic heart disease for women with normal blood pressure who had increased physical job demands, this was not statistically significant after excluding other risk factors like diabetes and smoking. The researchers feel that the reason why increased physical activity and high blood pressure causes ischemic heart disease is probably due to hardening of the blood vessels. Until more is known about the types of physical activity, no current recommendations are in place for women with high blood pressure.