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Work-life imbalance hard on women’s hearts: study

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Dallas — Work demands that get in the way of family life and family obligations that hinder work performance both can cause chronic stress that may increase workers’ risk for cardiovascular disease, especially among women, warn researchers from Brazil.

For the study, more than 11,000 workers in Brazil between the ages of 35 and 74 answered questions about the impact of work on their family life and vice versa. Each participant’s cardiovascular health was determined using questionnaires, clinical exams and lab results for health metrics such as smoking, body mass index, diet, physical activity, cholesterol, blood sugar level and blood pressure.

The researchers found that lower cardiovascular health scores were most prominent among women who reported frequent conflicts of work-life balance.

Although both genders were affected, the researchers said that the increased heart health impact on some women can be explained by the high importance they place on a nurturing family life.

American Heart Association experts note in an Oct. 10 press release that chronic stress increases inflammation in the body, which negatively affects the heart. The researchers recommend workers seek out strategies to reduce job-related stress and encourage physicians to place greater emphasis on recognizing stress as a component of health.

“We’re not going to eliminate stress,” lead study author Itamar Santos, professor at the University of São Paulo and researcher in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health, said in the release. “But we should learn how to live with it to not have so many bad consequences.”

The study was published online Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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