Lead author Karen Allesøe said, “Previous research has shown that men and women with physically demanding jobs have an increased risk of heart disease. Lifting and carrying cause a rise in blood pressure and may put people with hypertension at particular risk of a cardiovascular event. We wanted to investigate whether women with hypertension and physically demanding jobs have an especially high risk of heart disease.”
The study looked at data on blood pressure and physical activity at work collected through questionnaires from 12,093 female nurses. Women with high blood pressure and high physical activity were compared to nurses with normal blood pressure and moderate physical activity. The latter were found to be healthier.
During a 15-year follow-up, 580 nurses developed ischemic heart disease and twelve percent reported high blood pressure. Physical activity at work was high in 46.3 percent of nurses, moderate in 34.4 percent, and sedentary in 19.3 percent.
Allesøe added, “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.”
One explanation for the findings is that greater physical activity raises blood pressure and heart rate, contributing to atherosclerosis.
“For nurses, physically demanding jobs may involve high force demands during patient handling, or standing and walking all day with no time for breaks. Our results may also apply to other occupations that require lifting or carrying heavy loads and standing or walking for many hours, but this needs to be confirmed in other studies,” added Allesøe.
“We need more information on which aspects of physically demanding work are harmful. Until then, we cannot make specific recommendations on how much lifting, and for how many hours, is safe for women with hypertension. If our findings are replicated in other studies, there would be grounds for occupational health counselling for women with hypertension to ensure that the physical aspects of their jobs do not increase their risk of heart disease,” she concluded.
Reduce your heart disease risk with these steps
Knowing your odds of developing heart disease is important in order to reduce your risk. For example, are you overweight? Do you have a family history of heart disease? Do you smoke? Identifying the factors that increase your risk for heart disease is the first step to reducing that risk as you become aware of the challenges.
The next step is to get your numbers checked, namely, cholesterol and blood pressure. If these numbers are in healthy range, your risk is fairly low, but if they are elevated, your risk goes up.
Your weight and size are another two additional factors for heart disease. Overweight individuals are at higher risk for heart disease, along with women who have an abdominal circumference of 35 inches and men with 40 inches in abdominal circumference. You can determine this easily in the comfort of your home using a measuring tape. It’s been shown that even a five to 10 percent reduction in fat is enough to greatly lower your risk of heart disease.
Other steps to reduce the risk of heart disease include the following:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Control diabetes
By following these tips, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease starting right away.