Household chores can be bad for your heart.
New research shows worrying about household chores such as cleaning, getting the car serviced and paying the bills may be even worse for your heart.
Scientists in the US tested over 100 working men and women and found those who took on most of the responsibility for running the home had significantly higher blood pressure readings than those who left it to their partners.
The findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, suggest it’s not the workload itself but the stress about how to cope with it that causes the damage.
The strongest link with high blood pressure came from worries over how to get domestic chores done, such as cleaning, cooking and shopping.
Next came car maintenance and repair, paying the bills and keeping on top of the household budget.
But having to look after children or pets had no adverse effect on blood pressure.
Although there have been hundreds of studies investigating the links between stress at work and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, little research has been done into whether running a home and family has a similar effect.
Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer.
Around 270,000 people suffer a heart attack every year and nearly one in three die before they even reach hospital.
High blood pressure, which affects one in five people in the UK, is one of the major risk factors.
The higher it climbs, the greater the force exerted by blood on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 50 per cent of all heart attacks and strokes are due to raised blood pressure.
Clinical guidelines state the ideal limit for blood pressure is a systolic reading of 140mmHg and a diastolic reading of 90mmHg.
Systolic is the pressure inside arteries when the heart is forcing blood through them and diastolic is the pressure when the heart relaxes.
Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited 113 men and women in full-time work.
Each one provided details on how many hours they worked and what level of responsibility they took on for running the home.
They then underwent regular blood pressure checks at a local clinic over a three-week period, before finally wearing a blood pressure monitor for a day to track changes at work and home.
The results showed those taking on most of the responsibility at home, primarily women, were at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Household chores increased systolic readings by as much as 4.4mmHg, taking care of house or car repairs by 2.64mmHg and paying bills by 1.66mmHg.
Poorer families were more likely to be affected than better off ones.
Although some research suggests vigorous housework may be good for the heart, researchers believe the repetitive nature of cleaning, for example, may add to stress-related blood pressure problems rather than alleviate them.
In a report on their findings they said: “The perceived responsibility for household tasks, rather than the time spent doing those tasks, is what’s most distressing.”