The good news is that our habits and behaviors can indeed help us to maintain our health. Importantly, heart disease is one of the major causes of death in the United States and the heart is something that we can certainly keep healthy.
Recent study in the journal of “The Lancet” found individuals who worked greater than 55 hours a week had an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Essentially this means that working long hours sets you up for having a heart attack. Long hours are discovered to have as much as a 33% increased risk of stroke and 13% greater chance of developing cardiac disease and atherosclerotic disease of the coronaries. This was compared with the average individual who works 35 to 40 hours. The researchers were from University College in London and they analyzed studies from Europe, United States, and Australia, 25 in total. Multiple demographics were controlled including other factors that affect cardiac and brain disease including age, sex, social economic status, and smoking.
Additionally and importantly, working overtime was an independent factor also increasing the risk of stroke, even in the instance that work hours were less than 55 hours a week.
We probably all have experience with friend or family members who “work themselves to death.” You can see in their appearance, in their stress level, and their lack of sleep and fatigue due to overwork and workaholism. These individuals are at higher risk for stroke and cardiac disease. This phenomenon makes sense, as we certainly have observed it, but why physiologically would overwork attack the heart? There have been theories and suggestions that those individuals who are workaholics tend to also not take care of themselves as well otherwise including being more sedentary, drinking more alcohol, and taking less vacation. Alcohol use and lack of exercise has been connected with the higher risk of cardiac disease.
It is really good news that we do have some control of our long-term health and proper habits today of eating right, sleeping well, going to bed on time every night, and working normal hours goes long ways to preventing a stroke and heart attack.
David Santos MD