Is Your Job Giving You a Heart Condition? Workplace Stress Can Lead to a Heart Attack
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 610,000 people die each year as a result of heart failure. To put this disturbing fact into perspective, the average number of fatalities in the United States, over the same amount of time, totals roughly 2,450,000 deaths. Therefore, heart disease accounts for one out of every four American deaths.
If that statistic doesn’t give you palpitations, this next one surely will. Aside from genetic defects, the leading causes of heart disease are stress, high blood pressure, poor diet, caffeine, and smoking—all of which can increase as a result of your job. In other words, your job may be killing you.
A Stressful Job Leads to a Stressful Heart
There are hundreds of on-the-job factors that place you at risk for injury. Anything from faulty equipment to negligent coworkers can cause serious injuries. However, the scariest workplace hazard is the one you can’t see: stress.
The American Heart Association acknowledges that when stress is excessive at work, it can contribute to all of the risks mentioned above:
- High blood pressure. When stressed, your body releases adrenaline and other hormones to help you temporarily overcome the situation. A surge of adrenaline can help you complete a task that is causing you stress, while a surge of estrogen may help put you in a better mood to cope with the problem. Unfortunately, this surge of hormones can also cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow, resulting in a temporary increase in blood pressure.
- Poor diet. Workplace stress can lead to poor diet in several ways. A stressful schedule can limit sleep and free-time, causing you to eat more “convenience” foods, which can be highly processed and contain a lot of grease and fat. Hormonal imbalances brought on by stress can affect mood and emotions, increasing your risk for depression. These changes, including irritability and sadness, can also affect your eating habits by causing you to crave foods like chocolate and sugar that release endorphins (natural opiates).
- Excessive caffeine use. Stressed workers are also more susceptible to consuming more caffeine than their calmer coworkers. Whether it’s an addiction or a way to stay focused at work, the more caffeine you have, the faster your heart beats. The faster your heart beats, the more stress is placed on the muscle, increasing your risk for a heart attack.
- Increased smoking. Many people believe that smoking can calm them down. They believe the nicotine somehow relaxes their thoughts and decreases anxiety. However, medically, this isn’t the case. In fact, nicotine increases heart rate, decreases circulation, and constricts blood vessels. Over time, smoking can also increase the possibility of blood clots. Therefore, if you smoke as an excuse to “relieve” stress or just as a convenient way to take more breaks from the stressful work environment, you need to know that you’re doing more damage than it’s worth.
- Inactivity. Depression and anxiety caused by workplace stress can be positively draining. As a result, your body constantly feels exhausted and unwilling to exercise or move. This inactivity can lead to weight gain, which can lead to more stress, more stress eating, higher blood pressure, and further inactivity—a vicious cycle that is hard to break, but perfect for causing heart attacks.
De-Stressing for a Happier Heart
If you work in a job that causes you excessive amounts of stress, you need to consider ways that you can manage that pressure without jeopardizing your health. Common stress management techniques include exercising, meditating, trying to maintain a positive attitude, limiting caffeine intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Some individuals also find great relief by speaking with a therapist or other mental health professional. No matter how you choose to cope, remember, your health is more important than your job. So, just breathe and take a moment—if not for your mental state, do it for your heart.
Do you know someone who is under a lot of pressure at work and may benefit from this article? Please feel free to share it with them! You can also follow attorney Steve Lee on Facebook for up-to-date information and helpful tips.