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These 2 Things May Dramatically Raise Your Risk of Heart Disease

"This is particularly pertinent during the stressors caused by a pandemic," a study author said.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Social stress combined with job strain may significantly raise a woman's risk of developing coronary heart disease, a new study suggests. According to research published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Associationexperiencing job strain—which occurs when a woman has inadequate power in the workplace to respond to the job's demands and expectations—along with social strain is associated with a 21% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.

Women Who Reported High-Stress Life Events Had a 12% Higher Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

For the new study, researchers at Drexel University evaluated the effect of psychosocial stress on 80,825 postmenopausal women who were tracked by the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study from 1991 to 2015. The participants reported their stress levels and sources on questionnaires.

The scientists found that 4.8% of the women developed coronary heart disease during the 14-year study. After adjusting for age, other stressors, job tenure, and socioeconomic factors, they determined that women who reported high-stress life events had a 12% higher risk of CHD, and high social strain was associated with a 9% increased risk. 

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To measure social strain, defined as the "negative aspect of social relations," study participants were asked about "the number of people who get on their nerves, who ask too much of them, who exclude them, and who try to coerce them in their current life."

Job strain was not by itself associated with CHD risk, but the researchers found a "significant association" between job strain and social strain, determining that women who reported both had a 21% higher risk of CHD.

"Psychosocial stress typically occurs when people have difficulty in coping with challenging environmental conditions and can lead to dysregulation of homeostasis that may result in illness," the researchers wrote. "Recently, several large research studies identified that psychosocial stress from different domains of life (eg, finance, work, and relationships) may play a role in the development of coronary heart disease (CHD)."

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Could COVID Stress Impact Women's Heart Health?

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted ongoing stresses for women in balancing paid work and social stressors," said study senior author Yvonne Michael, ScD, SM, an associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health. "We know from other studies that work strain may play a role in developing CHD, but now we can better pinpoint the combined impact of stress at work and at home on these poor health outcomes."

She added: "My hope is that these findings are a call for better methods of monitoring stress in the workplace and remind us of the dual-burden working women face as a result of their unpaid work as caregivers at home."

"Our findings are a critical reminder to women, and those who care about them, that the threat of stress to human health should not go ignored," said the study's lead author, Conglong Wang, Ph.D. "This is particularly pertinent during the stressors caused by a pandemic." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.