Medicine News

Working long hours? You might be increasing your stroke risk

Most jobs are stressful, but workaholics often thrive in their offices. However, according to a study, younger employees who frequently work long hours have a higher risk of having a stroke.

What happens to your heart health when you work long hours?

The 2019 study, which was published in the journal Stroke, showed that working too much for too long may increase your stroke risk.

For the study, scientists questioned 143,592 adults aged 18 to 69 who had at least six months of work experience about their usual work schedules. Most of the participants had full-time jobs.

Physicians also took detailed medical histories for all the volunteers, along with any history of stroke or risk factors for stroke: diabetes, elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure.

The results showed that:

  • 42,542 participants (30 percent) worked more than 10 hours daily for about 50 days a year, which the scientists defined as long working hours.
  • 14,481 people (10 percent) worked long hours for at least a decade.
  • 1,224 participants (about one percent) have had a stroke sometime after they started working long hours.

The scientists found that working long hours was linked to a 29 percent higher risk of stroke compared to working less than 10 hours every day.

Employees who worked long hours for a decade or more had a 45 percent higher risk of stroke.

Dr. Alexis Descatha, the senior author of the study and a researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Paris Hospital, Versailles and the University of Angerswarned that employees should take it easy after working so hard.

Descatha noted that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment to determine if long work hours could directly cause a stroke. However, stress from long hours and a lack of free time for regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits could have contributed to stroke risk.

Dr. Joshua S. Yamamoto, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital, who wasn’t involved in the study, added that long work hours and the chronic stress associated with it may “accelerate natural aging.”

Yamamoto explained that high stress makes the body produce more stress hormones such as adrenaline.

These stress hormones have adverse effects, like:

  • Increasing blood pressure.
  • Increasing the workload on the heart.
  • Straining blood vessels.
  • Increasing the risk of irregular heartbeats or atrial fibrillation, a major cause of stroke.

Your age and job can also affect your stroke risk

Study findings revealed that both men and women had a similar increase in stroke risk when working long hours.

Researchers cautioned that younger workers seemed especially vulnerable. Volunteers younger than 50 who worked long hours for at least 10 years were more than twice as likely to have a stroke compared to others who worked less.

For the participants older than 50, the increased stroke risk for years of long hours was 36 percent.

The study also showed that people in positions of authority at work may be less susceptible to strokes with long hours compared to workers who don’t have much control over their work tasks or schedules. Participants who were business owners, executives and managers that worked long hours for a decade or more had a 21 percent higher risk of stroke.

The increased risk skyrocketed to 59 percent for blue collar workers, while those who work low-skilled white collar jobs had a shocking 70 percent higher risk of stroke.

Dr. Pouran D. Faghri, the director of the Center for Environmental Health and Health Promotion at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, said that those employed in highly demanding jobs, like low-control jobs or having long working hours, often suffer from chronic continuous stress. Faghri added that these factors will have adverse effects on employee health in the long term.

Tips on staying healthy at work

Not everyone has the luxury to just quit a job that has negative effects on one’s health.

But there are many ways to improve your heart health and overall well-being, such as:

  • Getting enough sleep at night to let your body recover.
  • Following a healthy diet, avoiding junk food and eating nutritious snacks like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.
  • Taking a break from work to incorporate some exercise into your workday. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator or ride your bicycle to work if it’s near your house.
  • Monitoring major cardiac risk factors, like blood pressure and levels of blood sugar and cholesterol.

Manage your work hours, exercise regularly and follow a balanced diet to boost your heart health and lower your stroke risk.

Sources include:

comments powered by Disqus