Work stress is associated with the risk of heart attack. Various scientific studies have shown over the years the relationship between both situations. We tell you here what is known about it.
Work-related stress is associated with the risk of heart attack worldwide. There is no country or society that escapes this link, which was increasing over time due to new work situations and the maelstrom of the field of work today.
On the other, the mortality associated with cardiovascular diseases has not receded, as is the case with various pathologies. In fact, in recent times there have been increases of up to 15% in cardiovascular mortality.
In turn, the disability associated with cardiovascular events increased more than tenfold – these are the consequences that remain in people after suffering a heart attack or stroke.
In particular, those workers who carry out their work in stressful areas are exposed to an aggregate risk factor. Some studies record up to 48% more risk among these people than in the rest of the population.
And the possibility of infarction increases exponentially when the stress meet other conditions such as smoking or obesity. In the long term, work stress is also associated with the risk of heart attack. A stressed worker increases the probability of a coronary event by 15% at 10 years compared to another worker without stress.
What is work stress?
Something that we have to define first to find the link between work stress and heart attack risk is what we understand by a stressful work situation. We know that it does not mean the same for everyone, but there are certain guidelines that allow us to unify the criteria.
Work stress is usually understood as the combination between a high psychological demand of the worker and a low level of control over the situation in which one works. That is, the worker suffers internally for the tasks that must be completed and, nevertheless, finds no mechanism to adapt.
In general, stressed workers are those who consider that many results are required in a short time, lack free spaces for personal fulfillment, perform monotonous tasks and are perceived without a decision about their work.
If the person adapts to these situations he will not suffer stress, but if he is not able to develop efficient defense mechanisms, or is not able to modify his environment, then he breaks. There appear the symptoms of work stress:
- States of anxiety or anguish
- Lack of concentration
- Muscle contracture
- Woman with work stress
Why is work stress associated with the risk of heart attack?
There are pathophysiological mechanisms that explain why occupational stress is associated with the risk of heart attack. The investigations in this regard have revealed various aspects of increased risk.
First, it has been noted that stressed workers associate their lifestyle with other risk factors. For example, they are smokers to a greater extent, consume alcohol frequently or are excessively sedentary. A bad diet also plays an important role.
When there is stress, whatever the origin, the cerebral tonsil increases the production of substances that are behind the formation of atheroma plaques in the arteries. In addition, stress instinctively activates the sympathetic nervous system, which releases norepinephrine, increasing the heart rate and closing the arteries.
If work stress causes depression – something that is common – substances in the body such as fibrinogen and tumor necrosis factor increase. These substances are inflammatory and add to the other arteriosclerotic processes.
It is also proven that stress situations activate the adrenal glands, which release cortisol in the blood. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, triggers processes that can culminate in cardiac events, as well as favoring obesity and diabetes.
How to reduce the risk of heart attack associated with work stress?
It is not easy to develop strategies that reduce the risk of heart attack infarction. There are many factors that exceed the workplace itself, and that depends on the worker’s personality or intrinsic issues such as age.
What companies and employers can establish are physical activity regimes. Gymnasium spaces can be raised in the work or programmed active breaks. With regular exercise, stress and, consequently, cardiovascular risk is significantly reduced.
For its part, the stressed worker must establish human containment mechanisms that help him. Friendship and family ties are important to support, especially for depression. The greater the isolation, the greater the spiral of stress.
Relaxation and stress management techniques have also proven useful. They can be taught by employers or be the initiative of the person suffering from the situation.
But, above all, what is required is a double commitment: employers and employees. Both should work together to reduce the risk of heart attack associated with work stress. Each one, doing their part, will establish healthier areas.
- Rosa, Miguel Angel Serrano, Luís Moya Albiol, and Alicia Salvador. “Work stress and health: Cardiovascular and endocrine indicators.” Annals of Psychology / Annals of Psychology 25.1 (2009): 150-159.
- Orange tree, Diana Lucia Díaz. “Work stress and psychosocial risk factors.” CES Public Health Magazine 2.1 (2011): 80-84.
- Marmot, J. Siegrist, T. Theorell, A. Feeney Health and the psychosocial environment at work M. Marmot, R. Wilkinson (Eds.), Social determinants of health., Oxford University Press, New York (1999), pp. 105-131.