Work stress ‘linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease’ – doctor

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Dr Fisher said: “Not getting enough sleep increases stress. And increased stress levels have been shown to have an adverse effect on your blood pressure.

“Work stress is specifically linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Further research suggests that it is the degree of control workers have over their work which leads to heart disease.

“Forcing your body to complete everyday activities without enough sleep is going to catch up on you eventually. It’s recommended that you get at least six to eight hours sleep per night, so make sure you’re getting that regularly and your heart will thank you for it!

“Getting enough sleep is one thing, but when we’re awake our minds race – we overthink, we’re constantly busy, and we don’t take enough time to reduce the stress in our daily lives.”

Dr Fisher’s comments are reflected in research conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) , the American equivalent of the British Heart Foundation on the impact of work stress on the heart.

In its studies of men, it concluded: “Men classified as having high imbalance had significantly higher work and home systolic blood pressure (SBP) than men not having high imbalance.

“We found a significantly higher SBP during work time compared with leisure time on the workdays and a higher average BP level during the workday compared with the non-workday.”

The AHA found that work stress contributed to an increase in blood pressure among men compared to when they were not working.

Furthermore, it concluded: “In summary, our results are parsimoniously described by an association of high work stress and low vagal tone.

“Secondary findings of high HR reactivity as well as high BP could be largely ascribed to low vagal tone as outlined above.

“However, this leaves the main question of causality for the association of work stress and vagal tone. It is possible that chronic stress directly reduces vagal tone through an unknown neurophysiological mechanism.”

The vagal tone forms part of the nervous system and is affected by the vagus nerve, which controls crucial bodily functions such as immune response and heart rate.

The AHA continued: “This may sound unsatisfactory, but it must be pointed out that no mechanism has been described to account for the well-known and significant decrease in vagal tone with age.

“Perhaps chronic stress speeds up this normal autonomic nervous system ageing process of vagal tone.”

As a result, it is not clear as to why work stress increases the veracity of the vagal tone. However, it is known that prolonged periods of stress are bad for the body’s immune system.

When the body is stressed, it releases cortisol, this causes blood sugar to be raised as it releases stored glucose in the body which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

How to reduce stress

There are a number of ways someone can reduce their stress levels.

Dr Fisher recommends: “Meditation, painting, playing a musical instrument, getting out in the great outdoors – whatever it is, doing something you enjoy may help to relieve some of those day-to-day stresses.”

Alongside improving mental health, getting outside and exercising will improve overall physical health too by cutting weight and improving heart function.

Furthermore, should work stress become too great, it is highly recommended that said person talks about this to a professional, either at work or in a safe setting to help improve their life.

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