Women in high-pressure jobs are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease, a study has shown. The finding suggests that the well-known damaging effects of job stress on men also extend to women.

During the study, among female nurses in Denmark, researchers assessed the impact of having a demanding job on the hearts of 12,000 women aged 45 to 64 over 15 years from 1993 to 2008. Those who complained of excessive pressure were at least 50 per cent more likely to have heart disease than those who said the pressure was manageable or appropriate. This figure was reduced to 35 per cent when lifestyle factors such as smoking were taken into account. The effect was greatest in younger nurses aged under 50, who ran twice the risk if they had a high pressure job.

The researchers from Glostrup University Hospital in Denmark say heart disease is more common in older people so causes such as stress are harder to distinguish from other lifestyle factors. By 2008, 580 women had been admitted to hospital with heart disease, of which 138 had suffered a heart attack. The results were published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The researchers also analysed the results for the first five years of the study up to 1998, when the nurses were younger. This showed the effects of stress were greater, relatively, with up to a doubling in the risk of heart disease for those under the greatest pressure.

June Davison, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Feeling under pressure at work means stressed employees may pick up some unhealthy bad habits and add to their risk of developing heart problems. "Pressurised workers may reach for cigarettes, snack foods and alcohol to make themselves feel better. If you feel under pressure you should try and tackle it in a positive way and get active during work hours. Using the stairs and walking some of the way to work could help act as a stress buster and boost heart health too."

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