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Does workplace stress increase heart disease risk?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Women whose work is highly stressful have a 40% increased risk of heart disease (including heart attacks and the need for coronary artery surgery) compared with their less-stressed colleagues. These findings come from the Women's Health Study (WHS), which included more than 17,000 female health professionals. For the study, researchers defined job strain as a combination of demand (the amount, pace, and difficulty of the work) and control (the ability to make work-related decisions or be creative at work). Earlier studies found similar trends among men: one documented a twofold higher risk of newly diagnosed heart disease among men who felt the rewards they received at work weren't compatible with their effort. Finally, working overtime hours seems to overtax the heart, as evidenced by a study that found a nearly 70% higher risk of heart disease among people who worked an average of 11 hours per weekday, compared with those who worked normal working hours (seven to eight hours per day). The study, which followed nearly 7,100 people (none of whom had heart disease at the outset) for just over 12 years, was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.