Americans also might be moving more toward the Japanese pattern of several generations living in the same household, Steinbaum said. Since women not only earn money on the job but also look after an extended family, "there is an enormous amount of stress and pressure required to do all these things," she said.
Today's dire economic situation appears to be adding to the stress, as families squeeze together to reduce costs, Steinbaum said.
"Perhaps we are becoming more like the Japanese, a more multigenerational society, and in that case ,it is very important that we don't put all the burden on women," she added.
The existing American concept of family might have to be changed, Steinbaum noted. "Roles need to be redefined," she said. "There needs to be either a return to tradition or there needs to be a better sharing of responsibilities."
The main conclusion of the report appears to be accurate, said Dr. Lori Mosca, a physician scientist at New York Presbyterian Hospital. "Certainly, caring for others can increase the risk of heart disease," she added.
But caution is needed about reaching any final conclusions, Mosca said. "It is a small study, and it did not adjust for socioeconomic status," she said. "Many women living in multiple generations in the house are from lower-income families, and that increases the risk of heart disease."
Still, the risk of heart disease for such women is real, Mosca added. "We should incorporate this potential risk factor into our screening, and refer women for support services when needed," she said.
Learn about women and heart disease from the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Suzanne Steinbaum, M.D., director, women and heart disease, Lenox Hill Hospi
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