Long workdays might jeopardize heart health: What you can do

July 05, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Worried that long work days are becoming the norm for you, rather than the exception? Is working too much really so bad for your heart health?

Researchers aren’t ready to say that working long hours causes heart disease. However, there is growing evidence that routinely working much beyond the standard 35-40 hours per week is associated with a higher risk of both coronary heart disease and stroke.

The Lancet published a study in 2015 that described this connection, based on analysis of data on more than 600,000 people from the United States, Europe and Australia. The conclusion: Putting in 55 hours or more per week compared to the standard work week correlates with a 33 percent higher risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.

“To make things worse, working long hours often leads to other habits that aren’t heart-healthy,” says Joseph Kinder, APRN, an advanced practice nurse with Edward Hospital and Advocate Medical Group, including:

  • Eating on the run, which often means more bad fats and fewer fruits and vegetables
  • Sitting, and more sitting, on the job – being sedentary is its own risk factor
  • Not enough sleep
  • Hours of computer/TV screen time late into the evening, allowing for little decompression from the day’s events
  • Unmanaged stress and anxiety, sometimes leading to an uptick in smoking or alcohol use
  • High blood pressure or other undiagnosed ailments because regular check-ups aren’t a priority
  • Strained relationships due to stress and lack of time

As a medical professional and father of four, Kinder has developed strategies for managing his busy schedule, while protecting his health and peace of mind. Here are his tips:

  • Find ways to work smarter so you’re not working more hours than necessary. If you’re having trouble organizing your space and time, get some advice on how to do it better.
  • Build a couple of breaks into your workday. Make at least one a short walk, if possible. Also, schedule some decompression time at home.
  • Always make time for healthcare appointments and exercise.
  • Set aside some time on your days off to prepare healthy meals for the week or for the next few days.
  • When you do need to work a longer or especially busy day, make an effort to stay positive. Attitude is key to working effectively and managing stress.

Learn more about cardiac care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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