Is Your Job Affecting Your Heart?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
November 18, 2019
Is Your Job Affecting Your Heart?

No surprise —job stress is a major source of worry for Americans. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a cashier at Walmart or a stay-at-home caregiver. Stress has always been linked with health problems but a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology associates having a stressful job with a higher risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib).

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

In the simplest terms, atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. The heart is divided into four chambers. Electrical signals contract the chambers at steady, regular intervals. But if the electrical signals occur too quickly for the heart to contract in a coordinated fashion, a heart rhythm disorder, such as AFib, can develop. And it can be quite serious, raising your risk for heart failure, angina and stroke. In fact, AFib causes between 20 and 30 percent of all strokes and increases the risk of premature death, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal.

“AFib is a fairly common condition that has been associated with stress. And some studies even suggest stress exacerbates AFib,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “But the focus of these has been chronic stress, not necessarily job stress.”

Job Stress Research Study - The Effect of Job Stress on Your Health

Researchers from Jönköping University (Sweden) surveyed more than 13,000 participants without a history of AFib, heart attack or heart failure that were enrolled in the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health in 2006, 2008 or 2010. Survey questions focused on sociodemographics, lifestyle, health and work-related factors (defined as job strain) that influenced stress levels such as speed of job, difficulty of job, conflicting demands, job repetition, time management and level of decision making. 

Data suggested that employees with stressful jobs were 50 percent more likely to develop AFib, even after factoring in variables such as tobacco use, physical activity level, body mass index, blood pressure readings and recreational time. And it seems the most stressful jobs are psychologically demanding but don’t provide employees with control over their work situation. Examples included bus drivers, administrative assistants, nurses and assembly line workers.

“If you’re involved in a stressful situation that doesn’t appear to have a solution – whether it be related to your job or personal life, talk to your doctor,” Kaminetsky says. “They can help you find ways to manage your stress and stay on top of the signs and symptoms of AFib, which include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath and difficulty exercising.”

If you don’t have a primary care physician, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you to develop a personalized wellness plan. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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