Adult male works at desk in cubicle. He is overworked and above him is a heart shaped clock that is about to strike midnight

Longer Work Hours May Increase Risk of a Second Heart Attack

An April 2021 study has found that longer work hours increase a person’s risk of having a second heart attack. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.1

The study’s researchers found that people who worked 55 hours or more a week doubled their risk of a second heart attack when compared to those who worked an average of 35 to 40 hours a week.1

What did the study include?

The study followed 967 men and women, ages 35 to 39, over a period of 6 years. They had all experienced a previous heart attack. They had also returned to work following their heart attack. The purpose of the study was to learn whether longer work hours put people at risk of developing a second heart attack. This is also known as a coronary heart disease (CHD) event.1

Other studies have linked long working hours with instances of CHD. However, this was the first study to determine whether long working hours increase the risk of a second CHD event in adults.2

What did the study find?

The researchers conducted detailed follow-up interviews and questionnaires with the participants. The interviews and questions gathered data on:1,2

Of the 967 participants, 205 (21.5 percent) had a second heart attack. In addition, those who worked longer hours (55 hours or more a week) were more likely to live with other lifestyle risk factors. This included things like tobacco and alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and working more high-stress jobs.1,2

How common is coronary heart disease?

Cardiovascular disease, which includes CHD, is the leading cause of death worldwide. CHD occurs when the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is more common in older adults.3,4

Longer working hours are also extremely common among adults. In fact, according to the International Labour Office, 1 in 5 people work more than 48 hours every week.2

The importance of prevention

Chronic stress, whether it is due to longer working hours or not, can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. This can lead to clogged arteries, which can put a person at risk of developing heart disease or a heart attack.

Poor diet, smoking, and/or lack of physical exercise can further increase someone’s risk. This is why prevention is key. Healthy lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, exercising regularly, and good stress management skills can have a positive impact on a person’s overall health.

Thanks to this study, the link between longer working hours and the risk of a second heart attack is more clear. It is also prompting doctors to look at more thorough measures that may help prevent a second heart attack. The researchers of the study recommend assessing work hours during routine doctor’s appointments.2

Your doctor

Talk to your doctor about concerns you have about your heart health and working hours. Your doctor can also offer tips on ways to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

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