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Is Your Job Wrecking Your Heart?

How job stress may affect your heart's health, and what you can do about it.

Your Role

Among all the factors that contribute to job stress, one of the most important is how you react to it.

One of the most important things to be concerned about, Diamond and Narula say, is if you’re a person for whom anger, hostility, and cynicism come easily. “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.

A personality overhaul may not be a realistic goal. But no matter what your tendencies - or your job - there are steps you can take to lower your stress levels and reduce your risk for cardiovascular trouble.

Stress reduction techniques - anything from cardiovascular exercise, such as running, biking, or brisk walking, to a stretching activity like yoga or Tai Chi, massage, or learning how to meditate -- are all great ways to counter stress on the job.

For best results, Diamond suggests making relaxation time a daily practice. “It’s like brushing your teeth to prevent a cavity from developing,” he says.

Although not always possible to change, it’s worth taking a fresh look at the things that bother you at work to see if some of your major stressors can be removed. For example, can you talk with your boss about moving to a new work space if your coworker on the other side of the wall is loud and constantly interrupting you?

And, if you have medical conditions that put you at higher risk for heart disease - high blood pressure, being overweight, and certainly if you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol - talk with your doctor about how to address these issues, Narula says. 

Your heart will thank you.

Reviewed on June 22, 2011

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