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Special Men's Health Issue | CAPSULE

The overworked heart

October 17, 2005|Emily Singer | Special to The Times

MEN in their 30s who have high-stress jobs may pay later with their heart health. A new study by Finnish scientists shows that young men with high work demands and a lack of control over their jobs show signs of early atherosclerosis, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Atherosclerosis is a process in which cholesterol and other deposits form a plaque on the inner lining of the artery, which can lead to restricted blood flow and ultimately to heart attack and stroke. In a report published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers at the University of Helsinki measured thickness of the carotid artery in 478 men and 542 women ages 24 to 39 years. They also assessed job strain by asking participants questions about the pace and mental demands of their work.

The scientists found that men who reported high job strain were 29% more likely to have increased thickness of the artery, after controlling for other risk factors such as smoking and cholesterol levels. The amount of raised cardiovascular risk was similar to that of smoking or a poor diet, says lead author Liisa Keltikangas-Jarvinen, a University of Helsinki psychologist. Women did not show the same effect, possibly because their job stress peaks later in life.

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