Heart Attack Risk Higher For Stressed-Out Workers

By Amir Khan on September 14, 2012 12:23 PM EDT

Heart Disease
If you work a stressful job, your heart attack risk may be higher than you think (Photo: Creative Commons)

If you work a stressful job, your heart attack risk may be higher than you think, according to a new study, published in the journal Lancet. Researchers found that people who work stressful jobs are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack when compared to people who are not under the same pressure.

Researchers looked at data on more than 200,000 people and found that 3.4 percent of all heart attacks can be attributed to job strain.

"Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, increased risk of experiencing a first [coronary heart disease] event such as a heart attack," Mika Kivimaki, study author and researcher with University College London, told Fox News.

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Eliminating job stress is near impossible, researchers said, so they said a new method for dealing with the stress needs to be developed.

"I think this is an area where changing the job situation may not be something that we have that much control over," Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University Medical Center, told Good Morning America.            "It may be in the long run that [we need] an alternative approach, rather than changing the work environment, that might focus on workers, try to train them in coping skills."

However, despite the increased risk, researchers said other factors, such as smoking and failing to exercise, raise your risk significantly more.

"High strain is associated with an elevated risk of developing heart disease, but this excess risk is probably smaller than previously thought," Kivimaki told GMA.. "For those with job strain, adopting a healthy lifestyle seems particularly important."

Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, agreed.

"Though stresses at work may be unavoidable, how you deal with these pressures is important, and lighting up a cigarette is bad news for your heart," he told Fox News. "Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and quitting smoking will more than offset any risk associated with your job." 

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