Is your job stressing you out? Do your heart a favor and take action to turn things around.
No doubt about it: Chronic stress is bad for you. But the problem may not actually be your job as much as you think it is.
“A lot of it comes down to individual reactions to stress,” says Tara Narula, MD, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “You can put two people in the same job, which you might say from the outside looks demanding, but it’s how you psychologically and physiologically react to that stress that would determine what your cardiovascular reaction is.”
Job stress impacts the body in direct and indirect ways, Narula says.
Directly, psychological stress may affect your heart's coronary arteries. Stress hormones may also make any plaque that's in those arteries more likely to burst, which can cause a heart attack.
Uncontrolled job stress may also indirectly affect the heart by raising your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. When you're under stress, platelets, which cause blood to clot, can become more likely to clump, making heart attacks more likely.
Stress can also wipe out your willpower to work on things like exercise, sleep, and eating well. If you turn to smoking or drinking, or too much comfort food, that's not good for you.
To figure out what needs to change, start by asking yourself these four questions:
1. How Do You Feel About Your Co-Workers?
Do you get along with your supervisor and other people you work with?
“In job situations, it’s not just the type of job but also who you’re working with. And the interaction with your co-workers is an extremely important factor in whether a job is stressful,” says Joseph A. Diamond, MD, director of nuclear cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
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."