Workplace Stress may Increase Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

iStock_000012977779_Large.jpgU.S. Health officials have reported that stress in the workplace can potentially raise your risk of stroke and heart attack, especially if you work in the service industry or are a blue-collar worker. Still, being unemployed can be equally risky for your health, added investigators.

“Workplace factors that increase risk include job stress, exposure to air pollution – like dust and secondhand smoke – and noise,” said lead researcher Dr. Sara Luckhaupt, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These workers would benefit from health programs that combine reducing occupational risk factors like job stress with health promotion activities like smoking cessation,” said Dr. Luckhaupt.

In addition, workers can already have health factors that make them predisposed for stroke and heart attack which can be made even more harmful by workplace stresses, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, noted Dr. Luckhaupt. What’s more, researchers found that 1.9 percent of workers under the age of 55 reported a history of heart disease and stroke. “It’s probably a combination of personal and work factors,” explained Luckhaupt.

“Don’t forget the job factors,” she added. “The noise, the air pollution and job stress could be contributing to the personal risk factors, like difficulty quitting smoking.”

Still, workers who are unemployed may still be subject to these risks. Researchers found that among unemployed people searching for a job, the rate of heart attack and stroke was also high, at 2.5 percent.

“It may be that the stress of unemployment and the lack of access to health care may be contributing to their health problems,” she said.

Luckhaupt noted that though the study found an association between employment or unemployment stress and heart health, it did not show a direct cause-and-effect link between workers having health problems and if they are employed or unemployed.

Two Orderlies Pushing A Woman In A Bed Down A Hospital CorridorThe study was published in the August issue ofMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, with data gathered from the 2008 to 2012 National health Interview Survey.

“There is increasing interest in workplace-based disease prevention, health promotion and wellness programs as a means of improving health,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Since heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the U.S., prevention strategies and workplace health programs are more important than ever, added Fonarow. “Health professionals, employers and workers should take proactive steps to improve their heart health, implement and take advantage of comprehensive workplace wellness programs and better utilize effective interventions to prevent heart disease and stroke,” he said.

A different study of lifestyle changes as related to heart health found that adopting just one new healthy habit can increase heart health. The study looked at 3,500 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. At the time, only 8 percent were physically active, ate well, drank alcohol mildly, and were not overweight or obese. The 34 percent who made no lifestyle change saw their health decrease, and an increase in risk for coronary arterial disease.

However, the 25 percent who adopted at least one new health habit saw their risk for coronary arterial disease fall. The study suggests making lifestyle changes like eating healthier, getting active, quitting smoking, or limiting drink to stop the natural progression of coronary artery disease.


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