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Can working long hours affect your heart? Here’s what doctors say

"Working long hours is a major risk factor for heart-related ailments, almost equivalent to having diabetes and hypertension together," said a doctor

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
June 30, 2021 11:30:15 am
heart health, how to protect the heart, how to keep the heart healthy, stress, working long hours and heart health, stress and heart health, indian express newsPsychosocial stress includes job-related stress due to long working hours, persistent stress, high work demands, and job insecurity, said a doctor. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

In May 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that long working hours have been increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke. According to estimates by WHO and the International Labour Organization, published in Environment International, working long hours led to as many as 7,45,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000.

In the pandemic, this has become a more pressing issue, as working from home has caused people to spend long hours in front of their computer screens. The report by WHO and ILO found that this work-related burden is particularly significant in men (72 per cent of deaths), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers. Most deaths recorded were among people aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

To understand the link between (work) stress and its direct impact on health, we reached out to doctors.

According to Dr Kumar Narayanan, consultant cardiac electrophysiologist at Medicover Hospitals Hyderabad, the link between mental stress and heart disease is well established. “Nowadays, not only are working hours excessively long, but stress at work has escalated exponentially. Work timings are also often unhealthy, extending into odd hours as people work across time zones in a globally-linked world. All this leads to harmful stress responses in the body, along with unhealthy diet, sedentariness, smoking and inadequate sleep.”

Weighing his thoughts on this, Dr P C Mondal, a senior consultant intervention cardiologist and HOD at Kolkata’s Apollo-Gleneagles Hospital said while patients with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases (especially heart failure) and those with coronary risk factors (diabetes, obesity) are at an increased risk of severe disease and mortality from Covid-19 (especially older patients), there may also be the development of new cardiovascular implications (including cardiomyopathy/myocarditis/Acute Coronary Syndromes) in patients without pre-existing cardiovascular diseases.

heart health, how to protect the heart, how to keep the heart healthy, stress, working long hours and heart health, stress and heart health, indian express news (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

To avoid the risk of stroke, heart conditions and diseases, doctors advise you to lead a more active lifestyle. Dr R K Jaswal, director and HOD, cardiology, at Fortis Hospital, Mohali said that this includes:

1. Avoiding a diet rich in fats, salt, low fiber, junk and fast foods.
2. Exercising more.
3. Lowering the consumption of tobacco, or completely stopping it.

“Psychosocial stress includes job-related stress due to long working hours, persistent stress, high work demands, and job insecurity,” he said, adding: “All these factors over a period of 25 years lead to the same level of risk of heart attacks as people who smoke and do not exercise.”

Summing it up, Dr Ulhas M Pandurangi, chief of division of cardiac electrophysiology and pacing at Arrhythmia-Heart Failure Academy, Chennai, noted: “Stress can tax the heart dearly. It is clear — working long hours is a major risk factor for heart-related ailments, almost equivalent to having diabetes and hypertension together.”

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