Some occupations are likely to affect female heart health more negatively than others, but which ones? This question is what one new study set out to answer.
Heart problems are a widespread health issue, especially among older populations.
And while researchers know that several lifestyle factors can increase the risk of heart disease — including an unhealthful diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking — there is one risk factor that does not receive as much attention as it perhaps deserves, namely, someone’s occupation.
Recent studies have shown that it is possible to link a person’s occupation with an increased risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular problems.
For instance, one study that researchers conducted on a cohort from Japan found that individuals in managerial positions, regardless of industry, face a higher risk of heart disease
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that it remains unclear just how occupational risk factors may contribute to heart problems, and they encourage further research in this area.
At this year’s American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions — which takes place in Philadelphia, PA, between November 16–18 — Bede Nriagu and colleagues from Drexel University in Philadelphia will present research adding to the evidence that certain types of work have an association with heart disease.
In their presentation at the Scientific Sessions, the researchers will explain which occupations show links with a higher risk of health problems in females, according to their study.
The researchers looked for possible associations between heart health status and different occupations in a cohort of more than 65,000 females whose average age was 63 years, and who had already experienced menopause. The team accessed these participants’ data through the Women’s Health Initiative study.
As part of their research, the investigators classified the participants according to the AHA’s cardiovascular health measurements.
These metrics look at lifestyle factors, such as smoking status, weight, physical activity, and nutrition, plus health risk factors, including total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar. The research team also took into consideration 20 of the most common occupations among the participants.
In total, the researchers noted that almost 13% of the females in the study cohort had poor cardiovascular health. They also found an association between specific jobs and an increased risk of heart health problems in these individuals.
More specifically, women who performed social work were 36% more likely to experience heart health problems than those with other occupations, and retail cashiers had a 33% higher risk of cardiovascular issues.
Nurses, psychiatrists, and home health aides had an up to 16% higher likelihood of developing heart problems. Among these, nurses, in particular, had a 14% higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
Yet the team also found an association between some occupations and a lower risk of cardiovascular health issues.
Thus, female real estate brokers and sales agents had a 24% lower risk of heart problems than those in other lines of work, while administrative assistants had an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular issues.
These associations remained in place after the researchers made adjustments for confounding factors, such as the participants’ age, marital status, education, and race.
“Several of the professions that had high risk of poor cardiovascular health were health care providers, such as nurses and home health aides. This is surprising because these women are likely more knowledgeable about cardiovascular health risk factors,” notes Nriagu.
“We interpret this to mean that it’s important to look beyond individual factors, such as health knowledge, to better understand the context of health care and other jobs that negatively impact cardiovascular health in women.”
The researchers argue that looking at the current finding, doctors may want to start considering their patients’ occupations when they assess their risks of cardiovascular problems.