By Dr. Crandall
Numerous studies have found that work stress translates to a higher risk of heart disease and heart attack. For instance, one study showed that people who reported having significant deadline stress at work were six times more likely to have a heart attack.
And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it is so-called bad stress or stress that people seem to thrive on — the harm it causes is the same.
For instance, many people assume that firefighters thrive on stress. But one study, which reviewed the records of 449 firefighters who died on duty due to coronary artery disease, found that 13.4 percent suffered fatal heart attacks while they were responding to a fire alarm.
Another way that work stress contributes to heart disease is by increasing a trio of risk factors — obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — known collectively as “metabolic syndrome.” This syndrome increases a person’s chance of developing diabetes, which is a major heart disease risk factor.
Several years ago, a group of researchers in England found that civil service workers under chronic work stress were twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome, even when the data was adjusted for other health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and lack of exercise.
Research has also shown that people are nine times more likely to suffer a heart attack right after a bout of anger. A more recent study, which looked at people with so-called “angry personalities,” also found these people were at higher risk for heart attacks over a 10-year period than people who are not prone to anger.
And it’s not just men. Although the stereotype is the “angry man,” women can also suffer the adverse health effects of anger, even if they deal with anger in a different way.
Another study found that women who felt angry, but didn’t express their anger, were significantly more likely than other women to develop thickening in their carotid arteries (the blood vessels in the neck). Such thickening is a marker for development of heart disease in the future.
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