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Heart Health Center

Is Your Job Wrecking Your Heart?

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2. How Much Control Do You Have?

Let's say you have a highly demanding job. If you have little or no power to make decisions about your daily tasks, that makes it a lot more stressful than if you have some control.

If you work a lot of overtime hours, the issue may not be the extra time.

“If you love your job and enjoy what you’re doing, then putting in long hours is not going to have so much impact,” Diamond says. “Where there may be an impact is if you don’t enjoy your job."

3. How Active Is Your Job?

Bursts of sudden, high-pressured activity make for a very stressful job, Diamond says. Air traffic control, police work, and firefighting are good examples.

Your stress hormones kick in, affecting your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar level, and more.

If your job is very sedentary -- you sit at a desk all day, for instance -- that's also bad for your heart, because you're not moving. Get up several times a day, even if it's only to walk around for a few minutes.

4. Does Your Job Affect Your Routine?

Switching from daytime hours to the night shift can mess with your sleep. If that happens a lot, it can be a problem.

“People who are chronically deprived of sleep are at higher risk for health problems, including [heart] disease,” Diamond says.

Less sleep can also lead to weight gain, which makes you more likely to get diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which increase the risk of heart disease.

If you travel a lot for work, that can be stressful, too, especially if it interrupts your sleep, exercise routine, or healthy eating habits.

4 Steps to Take

You play a big role in how stress affects you. “People who get angry or hostile are at greater risk of a cardiovascular event. People who let things roll off their back do better,” Narula says.

There are steps you can take to lower your stress levels and lower your risk for heart problems.

Exercise helps. You can burn off extra energy that builds up during the workday. If you have a desk job, it's important to get up and move throughout the day, on short breaks.

Relax daily. Make de-stressing part of your routine. “It’s like brushing your teeth to prevent a cavity from developing,” Diamond says.

Change what you can. Take a fresh look at the things that bother you at work to see if some of your major stressors can be removed.

Take care of yourself. If you have high blood pressure, are overweight, smoke, or drink heavily, work with your doctor to address these issues, Narula says.

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Reviewed on August 15, 2014

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