Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

High levels of stress have long been associated with increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Specifically, stress has been linked with increased blood pressure (i.e. hypertension), heart attacks, atherosclerotic disease (a thickening of arterial walls) and stroke. To date most of the research examining stress and cardiovascular disease has focussed on men, with little attention paid to females. However, a recent study published in PLoS ONE by Slopen et al. (2012) sought to determine if the chance of developing cardiovascular disease in women was dependent on types of work related stress experienced.

For the study, the researchers identified 22,086 eligible women (mean age 57 years) and had them fill out questionnaires to determine the level of stress participants associated with their employment. The participants were assigned to 1 of 4 categories according to their job responses:

  • Category 1 – Passive: A job of low demand and low control (control was defined as a combination of authority to make decisions and skill utilization)
  • Category 2- Active: A job of high demand and high control
  • Category 3- Low strain: A job of low demand and high control
  • Category 4- High Strain: A job of high demand and low control

Participants’ health was tracked for 10 years, and researchers noted cardiovascular events (including non-fatal heart attacks, non-fatal ischemic strokes, revascularization procedures (coronary artery bypass grafting and/or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty)) and cardiovascular disease deaths.

Results of the study showed that women who were under higher levels of job related stress (i.e. those in the high strain and active categories), were 38% more likely to experience a cardiovascular disease as compared to women in the low strain category.

These results further reinforce the importance of monitoring and properly managing stress levels. To do so, it is important to be aware of one’s stress levels and find effective ways to cope (meditation/relaxation exercises, exercise, talking to others about stress, etc…). Furthermore, it is important to establish healthy habits, such as getting proper nutrition and enough sleep to be better equipped to face stress, and to ensure that cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc…) are monitored to reduce risk.

If you are concerned about stress or your ability to handle stress, or if you would like to know how naturopathic medicine can help, please give Graham Beaton a call at 613-290-6115. Graham is a naturopath practicing in downtown Ottawa.