Heart disease: A stressful job can increase the risk

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Researchers say job stress as well as effort-reward imbalance can affect heart health. PER Images/Stocksy
  • Stress is known to have a number of negative health effects, including on your heart.
  • One of the most common sources of stress can be your job.
  • A new study links specific types of work stress to coronary heart disease.

Time spent at work can be, and often is, the most stressful part of the day for a significant portion of adults.

Frequently, the results of decades of stressful work is a host of health issues, not the least of which can be coronary heart disease.

In a research article published today in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, scientists examined 18 years of data collected from more than 6,400 participants to determine how various types of work stress might lead to heart disease.

The results?

High stress work can double the chances of men developing heart disease, which can cause heart attacks and other complications.

Among men, experiencing either job strain or effort-reward imbalance was associated with a 49% increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to their control counterparts.

Job strain and effort-reward imbalance together increased coronary heart disease risk by 103%.

“This is quite a huge effect size and it is impressive that the researchers followed 6,000 people over 18 years,” Dr. Alex Dimitriu, an expert in psychiatry and sleep medicine as well as the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California, told Medical News Today.

“There is no doubt that being rushed, feeling unprepared, or feeling unappreciated can increase stress levels,” said Dimitriu, who was not involved in the study.

Stress is sometimes treated as an emotional state, but expert say there are many physiological effects as well.

“Stress triggers your ‘fight or flight’ response, driving up stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate. This can have both immediate and long-term effects on the body,” said Ebinger.

Results among women in this study were inconclusive, but experts say women aren’t immune from the effects of stress.

“The study focused on only one type of heart disease, meaning that women with high stress may be at increased risk for other heart or non-heart-related events,” noted Ebinger.

“Indeed, women showed inconclusive results — and estrogen may be protective — however the authors agree the impact may become apparent later than for men. There is no doubt men and women will benefit from improved self care while also reducing work related stress,” said Dimitriu.

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