Cardiovascular Risk Factors Rife in Argentine Cardiologists

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of morbidity and mortality today. Most of these diseases can be prevented if traditional risk factors are controlled, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Cardiology specialists therefore strive every day to control these factors in their patients and reduce the pathology.

However, health professionals are not exempt from suffering from risk factors. In the case of cardiologists, they do not always follow the recommendations they make to their patients.

With this background, the purpose of the paper was to detect the level of well-being, labor equity, and gender violence, as well as to know the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in Argentine cardiology specialists.

The study was observational, cross-sectional, and carried out through a survey in a digital, anonymous, and voluntary form. Surveys were distributed during September 2021.

Cardiologists' personal data, anthropometric measurements, traditional risk factors, and personal and family history of cardiovascular disease were obtained.

Information was collected on profession, years of specialty, population density of practice location, weekly workload, 12- or 24-hour medical shifts, and travel time to the workplace, as well as habits, health checks, and other nontraditional risk factors.

Participants were consulted about professional well-being, work, and domestic gender violence. Women were asked about their obstetric history, menopause, and professional growth based on maternity.

A total of 611 cardiology specialists participated, of whom 59.5% were men and 40.5% were women.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed reported working more than 44 hours per week without differences due to sex. Female specialists predominated (38% vs 28%), however, among participants who worked 12- or 24-hour medical shifts.

There were also no differences by sex in the perception of well-being at work, where two out of three cardiologists considered that the workload was excessive. The same proportion thought that their remuneration was not commensurate with their academic training (75% of women compared with 60% of men).

According to the "Women as One" report, there is still a significant wage gap for medical staff. Women earn almost 30% less than men in some cases.

This perception of inequity operates as a chronic stress factor that qualifies as a risk factor for nontraditional cardiovascular disease.

Regarding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, 84% of those surveyed considered that it caused work and personal overload. This perception was also greater among women (88% vs 80%).

Regarding other risk factors, men had more of a history of cardiovascular disease, being overweight, and obesity, with a higher median of triglycerides. Women were more sedentary, had a higher median cholesterol level, suffered more difficulty sleeping, and had more disinterest, negative thoughts, and unhappiness.

The workload reported by the specialists may explain the lack of adherence to healthy habits.

Sixty-two percent of the cardiologists considered that motherhood limited their professional development, making visible the inequality that women face to fulfill their work, added to the assignment of family caregiver.

Exposure to gender-based violence was significantly more common in women than in men at work (58% vs 10%) and at home (16% vs 10%).

This type of violence has serious consequences: it prevents women from fully participating in the space where they work. In addition, the emotional effects of this violence have been widely demonstrated to be a cardiovascular risk factor. It alters platelet reactivity and increases risk of coronary heart disease, as well as increasing the incidence of depression and suicide.

Autors of research plan to investigate whether these patterns are repeated in other specialties. They envisage a political campaign to change conditions for female doctors, who are becoming more numerous.