The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tweezer pinch of twin worlds
- Stress, anxiety get to working woman
What ails the working woman in Calcutta'
Coronary artery disease
Heart attacks
Irritable bowel syndrome
Gastric ulcers
Diminishing body immunity

Sonali Mukherjee is 28. She has been working with an MNC for the past five years. She has a two-year-old son and in-laws to look after, beyond her hectic schedule in office. Two days ago, while going to her Salt Lake office, Sonali collapsed in Ultadanga. She was rushed to a local nursing home.

Diagnosis: mild heart attack. Cause: acute stress in office and at home.

Caught in the tweezer grip of work pressure and home chores, the strain of the 24x7 schedule is beginning to show on the city’s working woman. Succumbing to diseases directly linked with physical stress and mental anxiety is becoming the alarming rule, rather than the exception.

Starting with hypertension and coronary artery disease (CAD), working women juggling the two worlds are increasingly complaining of diabetes and gastro-enterological problems.

CAD among working women has gone up by 10 to 15 per cent in the past seven years, and in the above-45 age bracket, the male-female ratio is almost on a par.

“About 10 years ago, working women complaining of heart disease would be five per cent of the male patient count, but now it is closer to 20 percent,” says Abhijit Banerjee, head of department (cardiology) at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital.

Acute stress causes atherosclerosis among women, resulting in clogging up of the arteries, which increases chances of CAD, often leading to a heart attack. “To make matters worse, females have slightly smaller arteries than men and the co-morbid factors for heart problems, like obesity in women, is a lot higher,” says cardiac surgeon Ajay Kaul.

With men having more stress-busting options built into their daily schedules, women working without a break are rapidly moving into a danger zone, warn doctors.

Of every 100 female patients queuing up for a check-up at a gastro-enterologist’s chamber, almost 40 are working women.

“Most of my working-women patients hardly find time to eat, causing too much acid secretion, which eats into the mucosa, causing gastric ulcers,” says Mahesh Goenka, chief gastro-enterologist at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital.

Diabetes is another direct consequence of the acute stress on women, especially once they reach menopause.

“The diabetes ratio is 1.4 females:1 male above the age of 45 years. The high incidence rate is, indeed, worrying,” says Shubhankar Choudhury, vice-president of the Bengal chapter of the Diabetic Association of India.

Ashok Seth, chief of invasive and interventional cardiology at Escorts Hospital in Delhi, feels that working women often fail to co-relate risk factors, such as high blood pressure and tension in office and home with the chance of developing heart disease. “This attitude is becoming deadly now,” he warns.

Referring to two recent studies in the USA, where more working women were found to be succumbing to diseases than men, cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar blamed the diminishing support at home and growing pressure at work as the twin causes for concern here.

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