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Women In High-Demand Jobs At Increased Risk Of Heart Attack

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 5PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Elaine Barry-Grenier, a West Roxbury mom of five, was working a full-time job and going to nursing school when she wound up in the emergency room.

“I can only spread myself so thin,” explains Elaine.

Because of all of the stress, Elaine suffered a heart attack in 2005.

“You can’t do it all,” says Elaine.

A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers a warning to other women when it comes to stress on the job.

Cardiologist Michelle Albert is among the researchers who looked at the impact of stress on 22,000 working women over 10 years. The majority of women were white, worked in the health care industry, and had an average age of 57.

“Women who fall on the spectrum of high demand jobs, whether they have high control or low control, are at increased risk of cardiovascular events and increased risk for heart attacks,” explains Dr. Albert.

How much risk? Thirty-eight percent experienced a health issue related to cardiovascular disease. And the risk of heart attack went up by almost 70%.

From chest pains to just feeling overly “worked up”  it’s important for women to recognize  when the stress is taking a toll.

“Every woman is going to be a little bit different. For me, I  would note that I’m getting a lot of headaches,” says Dr. Albert.

Quitting that stressful job isn’t an option for most women but finding a better way to manage the stress is possible.

Dr. Albert offers some helpful advice for a healthier lifestyle.

“Increasing your physical activity and making sure you have the appropriate social support, and making sure you have time for yourself to distress,” explains Dr. Albert.

And Dr. Albert hopes more doctors will talk to their patients about stress levels.

“You’re not going to get rid of stress.  Stress is a normal part of life,” said Dr. Albert.

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