After a bad day at work, do you ever complain to your friends that your high-pressure job or demanding boss is giving you a heart attack? It’s just a figure of speech, but you might actually be on to something.
According to a new study of more than 22,000 female doctors and nurses, being in a stressful work situation increases a woman’s risk of heart attacks and related problems, possibly because the stress contributes to high blood pressure and other hazards.
Women who reported high levels of job strain were two-thirds more likely to have a heart attack during a 10-year period compared with women in easygoing jobs, the study found. Women in high-strain jobs were also 41% more likely to require a heart procedure such as bypass surgery.
Job strain isn’t exactly the same as job stress. When researchers talk about job strain, they’re referring to a specific type of psychological stress that’s “basically a combination of how demanding one’s job is and how much control one has over one’s job,” says Michelle Albert, M.D., the senior author of the study.
Challenging, fast-paced jobs aren’t necessarily straining. High-strain jobs are very demanding, yet they also involve little control or authority (picture working 12-hour days while being micromanaged). Low-strain jobs, on the other hand, feature relatively few demands and high levels of day-to-day control.