Sexual Harassment, Assault Tied to High Blood Pressure in Women

TUESDAY, February 22, 2022 (HealthDay News)  A new study suggests that sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace may increase women’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the US, accounting for one in three deaths. Sexual assault or harassment are not recognized as risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but these data suggest that screening for them may benefit women’s heart health.

“Reducing sexual violence against women, important in itself, may also be a strategy to improve women’s cardiovascular health throughout their lives,” said study author Rebecca Lawn, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. T. H. Chan in Boston.

Her team conducted a seven-year follow-up (from 2008 to 2015) of more than 33,000 women (mean age 53) as part of an ongoing US health study. In the beginning, no one had high blood pressure. But about one in five developed high blood pressure by the end of the follow-up.

The results also showed that 23% of women were victims of sexual violence during their lifetime; 12% experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and 6% experienced both.

Compared to those with no history of sexual assault or harassment, the risk of high blood pressure was 21% higher among women who experienced both; 15% higher among those who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace; and 11% higher among victims of sexual violence.

The findings were published on February 22 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

We know that experience sexual abuse in the form of sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and that women are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of such violence, with 13% to 44% of women reporting sexual harassment and up to 80% of women reporting sexual harassment in the workplace,” Lawn said in in a magazine press release: “However, exposure to sexual assault is not a generally recognized factor contributing to women’s cardiovascular health.”

The researchers found no increased risk of high blood pressure among women with a history of other types of trauma other than sexual assault. This suggests that an increased risk of high blood pressure does not appear to be associated with all injuries, she added.

“These results suggest that screening for a broader range of sexual assault in conventional health care, including workplace sexual harassment and verbal harassment or assault, as well as awareness and treatment of potential cardiovascular health outcomes, may be beneficial for women’s good health,” Lone said.

More information

To learn more about heart disease and women, visit the US Office of Women’s Health.

A SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association press release, February 22, 2022.

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