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Steep rise in heart disease risk among women as more take up full time work: Swiss study

Researchers claim ‘alarming’ rise in women reporting non-traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as work stress, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

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New Delhi: Scientists have found an “alarming” rise in the number of women reporting non-traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as work stress, sleep disorders, and fatigue. 

This, researchers in Switzerland claim, has coincided with an increase in the number of women joining full-time work. 

For the study, which was presented at the European Stroke Organisation (ESO) Conference, researchers collected data of 22,000 men and women in Switzerland in the years 2007, 2012, and 2017. 

The researchers from the University Hospital Zurich found that overall, the number of people reporting stress at work rose from 59 per cent in 2012 to 66 per cent in 2017. 

The trend, the study says, coincided with an increase in the number of women working full-time — from 38 per cent in 2007 to 44 per cent in 2017.

According to the study, in the 10-year period, those reporting feeling tired and fatigued had increased from 23 per cent in 2007 to 29 per cent in 2017. 

Over the same period, the number of participants reporting sleep disorders went up from 24 per cent to 29 per cent, with severe sleep disorders rising more sharply in women (8 per cent) than in men (5 per cent).

Also read: Antibody cocktail, given to Trump, could reduce hospitalisation in high-risk Covid patients: Study

Traditional factors remained stable

The research also found the traditional risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease had remained stable in the same 10-year period, with 27 per cent suffering from hypertension, 18 per cent with raised cholesterol, and 5 per cent with diabetes. 

Obesity increased to 11 per cent and smoking decreased from approximately 10.5 to 9.5 cigarettes per day, but both were more prevalent in men.

“Our study found men were more likely to smoke and be obese than women, but females reported a bigger increase in the non-traditional risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, such as work stress, sleep disorders, and feeling tired and fatigued,” the researchers from University Hospital Zurich said in a statement. 

“This increase coincides with the number of women working full time,” they added. “Juggling work and domestic responsibilities or other socio-cultural aspects may be a factor, as well as specific health demands of women that may not be accounted for in our daily ‘busy’ lives.”

Non-traditional heart disease risk factors 

According to Susanne Wegener, Professor of Neurology at the University of Zurich and one of the authors of the study, diabetes, arterial hypertension, raised cholesterol, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity are recognised modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 

More recently, however, non-traditional risk factors such as work pressure and sleep problems have been noted to significantly add to cardiovascular risk.

“The data shows that there are a wide range of risk factors for cardiovascular disease reported and these extend beyond the medical ones officially recognised to societal pressures and will help better inform prevention strategies for heart attacks and strokes”, Wegener said in the statement.

“Traditionally men have been perceived to be more affected by heart attacks and strokes than women, but in some countries, women have overtaken men. There is a gender gap and further research is needed to find out why,” she added. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Half of hospitalised Covid patients have persisting symptoms after a year, Lancet study says


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