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Stroke Risk Higher For Those With Stressful Jobs
- Updated: October 15, 2015
The adverse effects of stress has been well documented in numerous studies over the years. Now, a new risk has been discovered for those with stressful jobs: an increased risk of stroke. Nearly 800,000 new or recurrent strokes are diagnosed in Americans annually.
The researchers conducting the study revisited six previous studies on the adverse effects of high job stress and stroke risk that provided conflicting results. The previous studies followed more than 138,000 participants for periods ranging from 3 years to 17 years.
For the new study, jobs were classified into passive jobs, low stress jobs, high stress jobs, and active jobs, based on the amount of control the workers had over their job duties and how demanding those job duties were. Between 11 percent and 27 percent of the workers were classified as having high stress jobs.
The people that held jobs considered to be high stress were found to have a stroke risk 22 percent higher than those with low stress positions. For women, the correlation was even more pronounced. Women in high stress jobs were found to have a 33 percent higher stroke risk than their low stress counterparts.
When the researchers narrowed their focus to ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke according to the American Heart Association, the risk for high stress workers increased to 58 percent. An ischemic stroke occurs when there is an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. About 87 percent of stroke cases are classified as an ischemic stroke.
The reasons why a high stress job increases stroke risk remains unknown. One reason might be that high stress jobs results in increased production of stress hormones in the body that stay elevated for long periods of time. Stress hormones have been found to lead to inflammation in the body and inflammation has been positively linked to cardiovascular issues. Another reason may be the bad coping habits people develop when stressed, like poor eating habits, smoking, and increased alcohol consumption.
There are a number of ways employers can reduce employee stress in the workplace. Flexible scheduling and more empowerment over job duties have been shown to reduce stress levels in employees substantially. Employees can also reduce their stroke risk by ensuring they are eating right, keeping their blood pressure and cholesterol in check, and making sure they are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.