Cardiovascular Health Varies by Occupation
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease (diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels and include stroke) vary considerably by occupation according to a new study by NIOSH and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Although previous research looked at cardiovascular disease risk among U.S. workers, the current study is the first of its kind.
Investigators comprehensively analyzed biometrics, or clinical measures, and behavioral risk factors in a national sample of workers employed across a wide range of occupations, which they report in a paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Cardiovascular disease is largely preventable but remains a major cause of death and long-term disability worldwide.
In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death, while stroke is the third-leading cause of death. More than half of those in the U.S. population with cardiovascular disease are under age 60.
Study Sample, Design
For this study, participants included workers aged 45 years and older (the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce) participating in a national study of heart disease and stroke, known as REGARDS, or the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke.
As part of that study, investigators published information about heart disease and related risk factors for 6,282 workers.
Using computer-assisted telephone interviews, self-administered questionnaires, and clinical exams, they obtained information about heart disease and stroke, as well as seven risk factors: (1) elevated blood sugar, (2) elevated blood cholesterol, (3) high blood pressure, (4) elevated body mass index, or height-to-weight measurement, (5) poor diet quality, (6) inadequate physical activity, and (7) smoking.
For each study participant, investigators categorized the risk factors as ideal, intermediate, and poor, according to criteria from the American Heart Association.
From this information, NIOSH and university partners estimated the number of U.S. workers with ideal, intermediate, or poor cardiovascular health.
They found that cardiovascular disease affects 11.6%, or an estimated 10 million U.S. workers age 45 and older.
Overall, more managers and workers in professional occupations had ideal cardiovascular health.
For the four behavioral factors—smoking, physical activity, diet quality, and BMI—computer and healthcare support workers were the least likely to have ideal cardiovascular health.
Workers in protective services and food preparation and serving were the least likely to score as ideal on the clinical factors of blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.
These findings are consistent with increasing evidence linking social and environmental work conditions to varying levels of cardiovascular health and disease among workers employed in diverse jobs.
The findings also highlight the need for more public health programs targeting heart disease and related risk factors among workers.
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