Long hours increases heart disease risk

13:30 AEST Thu Sep 13 2012
Kimberly Gillan, MSN NZ
major US study has found people who work long hours are up to 80 percent more likely to suffer heart disease
major US study has found people who work long hours are up to 80 percent more likely to suffer heart disease (Thinkstock)

Next time you're about to clock some overtime, you might want to think again.

A major US study has found people who work long hours are up to 80 percent more likely to suffer heart disease.

The researchers believe it's the lethal cocktail of stress, high blood pressure and unhealthy eating that makes working late so bad for our health.

Scientists from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health compared 12 studies from the past 50 years and found people who worked any more than a normal eight-hour day were at increased risk of heart disease.

In total, the studies included 22,000 people from the US, Japan and Europe.

Dr Marianna Virtanen and her team said the risk varied depending on how the studies were completed –– in the studies where people had to recall their working hours, the risk was highest, while in those where researchers monitored the working hours, the risk was around 40 percent.

"There are several potential mechanisms that may underlie the association between long working hours and heart disease –– one is prolonged exposure to psychological stress," Dr Virtanen said in her report.

Dr Robert Grenfell, clinical issues director at the Heart Foundation, said it's difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you're chained to your desk.

"People who work irregular or long hours often find it harder to eat healthily and be active, both of which are vital for a healthy heart," he said in a media release.

"Whether you work nights or days, it's important to build 30 minutes of activity into your day and to enjoy a diet low in saturated fat and salt with plenty of fruits and vegetables. We also urge all Australians, especially those over 45, to ask their GP for a heart health check which looks at blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other risk factors like family history and smoking."

This research comes after a July study found shift workers were 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack and five percent more likely to have a stroke.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.


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