Nurses with high blood pressure and active jobs are more at risk of developing heart disease

Danish researchers highlight dangers of physical work for hypertensive nurses

Female nurses who suffer from high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease, new research suggests.

More than 12,000 Danish nurses aged 45-64 took part in the 15-year study at the Research Centre for Prevention and Health in Copenhagen, Denmark. Nearly 12% were found to be suffering from high blood pressure. The participants completed questionnaires which allowed lead researcher Karen Allesoe and her team to assess the level of physical activity their job required.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed physical activity at work as being 'high' for 46.3% of the nurses, 'moderate' for 34.4% and 'sedentary' for 19.4%.

The team found a total of 580 nurses had gone on to develop ischaemic heart disease. Of these, five were nurses with normal blood pressure who did high amounts of activity while 15 were nurses with hypertension who did a moderate amount of activity.

The team assumed that once high activity and hypertension were combined, they would see 20 additional cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD); however they found an additional 60.

Ms Allesoe, said of this surprise result: 'The two risk factors appear to work together, resulting in an even greater incidence of heart disease. It means hypertensive women with physically demanding work may be especially at risk. To our knowledge, this has not been shown before among women.

‘For nurses, physically demanding jobs may involve high force demands during patient handling, or standing and walking all day with no time for breaks.’

She said more information was needed on which specific aspects of physically demanding work are harmful, adding: ‘Until then, we cannot make specific recommendations on how much lifting, and for how many hours, is safe for women with hypertension.’

She predicts similar findings in other studies ‘would be grounds for occupational health counselling for women with hypertension to ensure that the physical aspects of their jobs do not increase their risk of heart disease.’

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