Work, work, work…
For some of you who are working professionals, this may be the only thing on your mind. Have I replied to that email my manager sent? How much work is left before my project deadline? Am I sufficiently prepared for my work presentation? These gnawing questions may consume you and prevent you from having your much-needed downtime and peace of mind.
We explained about how chronic stress in the workplace can have adverse impacts on your heart health in a previous blog post. This was especially true for high-level executives — due to the demanding nature of their jobs, they tend to overlook their heart health and overall well-being. But what exactly about work may make you more vulnerable to chronic stress and thus, heart disease? There is a lot of scientific research showing links between different job characteristics and the risk of heart disease. We break down a few of these job characteristics below.
Type of job
Unfortunately, there’s no good news on this front — both white-collar and blue-collar jobs have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. A study from Indonesia showed that white-collar workers were around 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a heart disease than blue-collar workers. But blue-collar workers were more likely to report heart disease symptoms than white-collar workers. Another study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US found that those who worked in the service industry (restaurants, bars, hotels) and blue-collar workers had higher rates of heart diseases and strokes. Both these types of jobs involve high-pressure situations, long hours, and tight deadlines — all of which can exacerbate chronic stress.
Long working hours
Burning the midnight oil for work may raise your risk of heart disease. One analysis showed that those who worked for more than 55 hours in a week were about 1.3 times more likely to experience strokes. These people were also about 1.1 times more likely to get diagnosed with ischemic heart disease. Working long hours may also cause you to sideline heart-healthy behaviours like physical activity and getting enough sleep. These may in turn worsen your risk of heart disease.
Working in shifts
Some jobs like doctors, nurses, bus and taxi drivers, and hospitality workers entail rotating shifts. These uneven schedules may disrupt the body’s natural body clock, which plays a role in regulating your blood sugar, blood pressure, and insulin levels. Disrupted sleeping patterns also affect the immune system, which leads to inflammation. One study among nurses in the US found that those working the night shift at least three times a week were around 27% more likely to develop heart diseases during the 24 years of the study. Another study from Jordan compared night shift and day shift workers. It found that night shift workers were more vulnerable to atherosclerosis and other heart diseases, and this vulnerability was higher if they worked for longer hours and for more nights in a month.
High job strain
Sometimes, you may feel that all the effort you pour into your work goes unrecognized and unappreciated. You may also feel that you don’t have control over your job, with your manager always breathing down your neck. Believe it or not, these feelings can take a serious toll on your physical health. One study among civil servants in England found that those who felt they had low job control had a higher risk of newly reported ischemic heart disease. High job strain also raised cholesterol levels among individuals in one study. Those who felt that they weren’t fairly rewarded for their work had higher BMIs after follow-up.
If you think you relate to any of the job characteristics above, you may be more susceptible to heart disease. Some work-related stress may be unavoidable, but it’s important to not let this stress escalate and consume your life. Do also remember that chronic stress does not discriminate — it can affect job-seekers, homemakers, and caregivers. You should be proactive about protecting your heart in all spheres of life — professional, personal, and social. Ensure that you take some time out to unwind and engage in heart-healthy behaviours like exercise and good-quality sleep. Read more about ways to combat stress here. Remember, keep hustling professionally, but don’t take it easy on your heart health!
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AliveCor, recognized as a Tech Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, is transforming cardiology by delivering AI-based, personalized heart care solutions. Our FDA-cleared machine learning techniques are recommended by leading cardiologists around the world.