A new research has suggested that being stressed at work can put you at an increased risk of developing a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that too much job pressure was associated with a 48 per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can lead to stroke, dementia, heart failure and other complications. The symptoms of atrial fibrillation, according to the study authors, may include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, feeling light-headed, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
“Work stress has previously been linked with coronary heart disease. Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease,” said study author Eleonor Fransson from Jonkoping University in Sweden. “People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work,” she explained.
For the current research, the team, included 13,200 people enrolled into the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006, 2008, or 2010. The participants were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure. The researchers defined work stress as job strain, which refers to jobs with high psychological demands combined with low control over the work situation.
At study inclusion, participants completed postal surveys on sociodemographics, lifestyle, health, and work-related factors. During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, the researchers identified that work stress was a risk factor for atrial fibrillation.
“Atrial fibrillation is a common condition with serious consequences and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it,” Fransson explained.
Various studies have shown that stress may affect behaviours and certain factors that increase heart disease risks such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
What you can do about stress
Perhaps, the stress induced by work excessive demands and too little control is not unique to the workplace. Stress can take a toll on your long-term health, both physically and mentally. Chronic stress can affect your heart and blood vessels. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to help reduce your stress level and improve overall health. These include:
- Exercise: Being physically active helps alleviate stress and reduce your risk of becoming depressed. It will also keep your weight in control while improving your overall health.
- Learn relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga, are all helpful in combating stress.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can affect your mood, mental alertness, energy level and physical health. Chronic insomnia can lead to stress and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
- Maintain work-life balance: It may be hard to find a well-paid job that offers the best balance between work and personal life, but it’s imperative that you must learn to limit intrusions (such as work-related e-mails) on your life outside of work.
- Seek help: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or your stress is constant, you might consider talking to a doctor or other healthcare professionals for advice.
Yes, it’s true that stress is unavoidable, but it can be managed. By making positive, healthier lifestyle choices in your everyday life, you can reduce stress and avoid its consequences.