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Overtime, Stress & Heart Disease

Is there a link between overtime and heart disease? It appears that there is.   2011-02-09

The results of a study published in the European Heart Journal appear to portray a connection between working for 10 hours or more on a daily basis and heart disease. An 11 year study of British Civil Servants revealed that those working for three hours or more over and above the standard 7 hour workday were 60 percent more likely to develop chronic heart disease than their colleagues who did not work overtime.

A similar study carried out amongst nurses in Denmark revealed that those who were exposed to a high degree of pressure at work were at an increased risk of developing ischaemic heart disease.

It is evident that what is harmful to us is the constant pressure and the stress associated with long hours at work which can contribute to the development of heart problems depending on the individual's coping mechanism. Employees who work in a high stress environment and who put in long hours at work also tend to develop unhealthy habits such as physical inactivity, smoking, eating of snack foods or foods with a very high refined sugar content to help them cope with the pressure. These in turn contribute to the development of high blood pressure and high cholesterol all of which are linked to heart disease.

Statistics issued by the Health and Safety Executive reveal that work related stress is widespread in the UK working population and is not confined to particular sectors or high risk jobs or industries although it is clear that a workplace's senior or key employees have the greatest risk of suffering from stress and its attendant dangers. Managers or professionals suffer from stress if they have to work very long hours or if they fear that poor performance will affect them, a client or the company, its reputation or earnings.

So how can you know whether you are suffering from stress? We bring you a list of signs and symptoms which is by no means exhaustive. If you recognise some of them it is advisable that you take steps to reduce your stress levels:

  • You lose your temper very easily, especially at home.
  • Feel overwhelmed.
  • Anxious.
  • Depressed.
  • Irritable.
  • Suffer from moodiness.
  • Exhausted
  • Suffer from sleeplessness.

People who are stressed can be very irritable, blowing a fuse at their spouse, partner or children at the most insignificant provocation. They can also develop constipation or diarrhoea, suffer from flu, colds or frequent infections or indeed develop other physical ailments as the body signals that it needs help.

It is difficult to describe all of the possible side effects of stress in the workplace but the most important thing is that you be aware of your own body, have the courage to recognise any changes for what they are, symptoms of stress, learn or develop stress controlling techniques and if these do not work, make the necessary lifestyle changes to safeguard your health.