Long workdays might jeopardize heart health: What you can do

January 12, 2023 | 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 coronary heart disease and stroke.

The Lancet published a study 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.

Similarly, a global study by the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization concluded that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

To make things worse, working long hours often leads to other habits that aren’t heart-healthy, 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 getting 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

What can you do to protect your health and peace of mind while also managing a busy schedule? Try these strategies:

  • 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. Learn effective workouts when you're short on time.
  • Set aside some time on your days off to prepare healthy meals for the week or for the next few days. Learn how to make meal planning work when you're busy.
  • 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 15 simple stress busters you can do today.

Learn more about expert heart care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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