Stress at work may stress your heart

By June Shannon Heart News   |   15th Jun 2018

How does work stress affect your heart?

Do you have a stressful job over which you have little control? If so a new study has suggested that it may be bad for your heart.

According to the new research, having a stressful job is associated with a higher risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation.

In the study the authors noted it was accepted that the most stressful jobs were those that were psychologically demanding but gave employees little control over their work situation – for example, assembly line workers, bus drivers, secretaries, and nurses.

The study found that being stressed at work was associated with a 48 per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation, after adjustment for age, sex, and education.

"Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees’ ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved,"

Dr Eleonor Fransson, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Jönköping University, Sweden.

Dr Eleonor Fransson, study author and Associate Professor of Epidemiology, at the School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University in Sweden, said, “We need people to do these jobs, but employers can help by making sure staff have the resources required to complete the assigned tasks. Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees’ ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved.”

This study included 13,200 participants enrolled into the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006, 2008, or 2010. Participants were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure. At the start of the study, participants completed postal surveys on sociodemographic, lifestyle, health, and work-related factors.

Work stress was defined as job strain, which refers to jobs with high psychological demands combined with low control over the work situation.

During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, 145 cases of atrial fibrillation were identified from national registers.

Dr Fransson said: “In the general working population in Sweden, employees with stressful jobs were almost 50% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. The estimated risk remained even after we took into account other factors such as smoking, leisure time, physical activity, body mass index, and hypertension.”

"The relationship between stress and heart disease in general has been difficult to study given the difficulties in quantifying stress,"

Professor Ian Graham, Irish Heart Foundation Council on CVD Prevention

Commenting on the study Professor Ian Graham, Irish Heart Foundation Council on Cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Trinity College Dublin said, the relationship between stress and heart disease in general has been difficult to study given the difficulties in quantifying stress.

“It does seem however that high demand with little power to control it can be damaging. Since stress increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the output of adrenaline, it is not surprising that it should trigger rhythm disturbances. We all know that if we get a fright our heart rate goes up,” Prof Graham explained.

However, Prof Graham also noted that while the authors of this study took factors into account such as age, sex, education, leisure activity, BMI and history of self-reported hypertension, they did not look at the amount of alcohol the participants in the study consumed and, if those that were stressed drank more alcohol, this was likely to have had a major impact.

The study was published in recently in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) journal.

 

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alcohol. heart. stroke atrial fibrillation heart stress

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