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Heart Disease Health Center

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Job Stress Risky After Heart Attack

Work Stress May Make a Second Heart Attack More Likely, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 9, 2007 -- Heart attack survivors may want to tame their job stress for their heart's sake.

A new Canadian study shows that middle-aged heart attack survivors appear to be more likely to have a second heart attack, die of heart disease, or be hospitalized for chest pain if they have chronic job strain.

Chronic job strain meant having lots of work stress and little control over work tasks for more than two years.

The study appears in tomorrow's edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Job Stress Study

The researchers included Corine Aboa-Eboule, MD, PhD, of Laval University in Quebec. They studied 972 workers in Quebec who had had a heart attack.

Job stress has already been shown to be bad for the heart, but little research has specifically focused on the risk for heart attack survivors.

Most of the workers were in their 40s and 50s. They were interviewed three times about their lifestyle, medical history, and work stress:

  • Six weeks after returning to work after their heart attack
  • Two years after their heart attack
  • Seven years after their heart attack

The workers were followed for about six years, on average.

Chronic Job Stress, Heart Risks

During that time, 111 workers had a second nonfatal heart attack, 82 were hospitalized for chest pain, and 13 died of heart disease. Those risks were highest for workers with chronic job strain.

Many factors can affect heart health. But the results held when the researchers considered a long list of factors including age, sex, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, physical activity, and social support at work.

Strategies to prevent job strain might help, the researchers suggest.

The researchers didn't screen the workers for depression, which has been shown to be bad for the heart, notes editorialist Kristina Orth-Gomer, MD, of Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

Orth-Gomer writes that there is a "great need" for research to find ways to prevent and manage job strain.

(Does your job stress you out? How do you deal with it? Talk about it with others on WebMD's Heart Disease: Support Group message board.)

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