Are some jobs better for women's hearts than others?

Could your chosen profession determine the health of your heart?

It could certainly have an influence, new research suggests.

Surprising findings

Scientists analysed data from more than 65 000 postmenopausal women in the United States and found that several jobs were associated with poor heart health.

Compared to women with other jobs, the risk of poor heart health was: 36% higher in social workers; 33% higher in retail cashiers; 16% higher in health care providers, especially in the fields of nursing, psychiatry and home health aides; and 14% higher in registered nurses.

"Several of the professions that had high risk of poor cardiovascular health were health care providers, such as nurses and home health aides," said study author Bede Nriagu, a research fellow in epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University's School of Public Health, in Philadelphia.

"This is surprising because these women are likely more knowledgeable about cardiovascular health risk factors," he added.

No cause-and-effect link

"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," Nriagu said in an American Heart Association news release.

The study also found that the risk of poor heart health was 24% lower among real estate brokers and sales agents, and 11% lower among administrative assistants than among those with other jobs.

The findings help pinpoint which women might benefit from workplace health programmes to improve heart health, the researchers noted. They were scheduled to present their findings at the American Heart Association annual meeting, in Philadelphia. Such research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The findings do suggest that a woman's job is an important factor in her heart health, Nriagu said, although the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link. Doctors may want to ask their female patients about their occupation, to identify those at high risk for heart problems, he suggested.

Image credit: iStock

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