Thursday, May 13, 2010

Memo to boss: 11-hour days are bad for the heart

LONDON - People working 10 or 11 hours a day are more likely to suffer serious
heart problems, including heart attacks, than those clocking off after seven
hours, researchers said on Tuesday.

The finding, from an 11-year study
of 6,000 British civil servants, does not provide definitive proof that long
hours cause coronary heart disease but it does show a clear link, which experts
said may be due to stress.

In all, there were 369 cases of death due to
heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and angina among the London-based study
group -- and the risk of having an adverse event was 60 percent higher for those
who worked three to four hours overtime.

Working an extra one to two
hours beyond a normal seven-hour day was not associated with increased risk.

"It seems there might a threshold, so it is not so bad if you work
another hour or so more than usual," said Dr Marianna Virtanen, an
epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University
College London.

The higher incidence of heart problems among those
working overtime was independent of a range of other risk factors including
smoking, being overweight or having high cholesterol.

But Virtanen said
it was possible the lifestyle of people working long hours deteriorated over
time, for example as a result of poor diet or increased alcohol consumption.

More fundamentally, long hours may be associated with work-related
stress, which interferes with metabolic processes, as well as "sickness
presenteeism," whereby employees continue working when they are ill.

Virtanen and colleagues published their findings in the European Heart

Commenting on the study, Gordon McInnes, professor of clinical
pharmacology at the University of Glasgow's Western Infirmary, said the findings
could have widespread implications for doctors assessing patients' heart risks.

"If the effect is truly causal, the importance is much greater than
commonly recognized. Overtime-induced work stress might contribute to a
substantial proportion of cardiovascular disease," he said.

A perfect excuse for having shorter hours... perhaps even shorter work weeks?

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