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Work Long Hours? Think Twice for Your Heart's Sake

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Work Long Hours? Think Twice for Your Heart's Sake

It's no secret that exercise, even after a cardiac event, keeps the heart healthy. However, this isn't the case for all-day exertion. In fact, people who work long hours after a heart attack double their risk of future cardiac events. 

Keep reading to learn what Dr. Jared Davis, an interventional cardiologist at Archbold, has to say about working long hours and how high-stress work environments can contribute to dangerous cardiac risks, including heart attack. 

Q: How do long working hours impact heart health, especially if you have experienced a heart attack in the past? 

Long working hours can have a profound impact on your heart health. And according to Dr. Davis, burning the candle at both ends is particularly dangerous for individuals who have previously suffered a heart attack. 

"Prolonged hours at work, often accompanied by excessive stress, can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate," says Dr. Davis. "This can be especially detrimental to those who have a history of heart problems. The heart, like any other muscle, needs adequate rest and recovery to function optimally. When it doesn't get that, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks."

Q: What are the primary factors that contribute to increased cardiac risks when working overtime or in high-stress work environments?

Dr. Davis emphasizes that working overtime or in high-stress work environments can elevate cardiac risks due to several factors. 

Stress Overload

Prolonged exposure to stress hormones like cortisol can have a profound impact on the cardiovascular system, leading to inflammation and the buildup of arterial plaque.  

"When the body encounters a stressful situation, it activates the "fight or flight" response, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline," says Dr. Davis. "These hormones prepare the body to respond quickly to a perceived threat by increasing heart rate, elevating blood pressure, and redirecting energy to essential functions like the brain and muscles. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones, especially cortisol, can lead to chronic inflammation within the body which can ultimately result in reduced blood flow to vital organs and an increased risk of cardiovascular events."

Lifestyle & Unhealthy Habits

"When individuals work long hours in stressful environments, they often resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms which can further exacerbate the risk of a cardiac event," says Dr. Davis. "Poor dietary choices, lack of physical activity, and inadequate sleep when working long hours, can become an unfortunate cycle that is detrimental to your physical health and can also take a toll on your mental well-being."

Q: How can patients effectively balance the benefits of regular exercise with the potential negative impact of working long hours on their heart health? 

Dr. Davis encourages individuals to prioritize their heart health by coping with stress in healthy ways. 

"Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining cardiovascular health, but it should be balanced with adequate rest and stress management," he advises. "Try to incorporate shorter, more intense workouts when time is limited, and ensure your exercises are efficient and effective. Also, find time for relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to counteract the effects of stress." 

Q: What warning signs should patients be aware of that may indicate they are exacerbating their cardiac risks by working extended hours? 

"Individuals should be vigilant about monitoring their overall health," advises Dr. Davis. "If you experience any heart attack symptoms, you should call 911 immediately or head to the nearest hospital." 

He lists the following warning signs to watch for:

  • Persistent chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath, even at rest
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Excessive fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness or fainting spells

Q: As a doctor, what recommendations would you provide to patients who have suffered a heart attack to manage their work hours and reduce the risk of future cardiac events? 

"First and foremost, consult with your healthcare provider to create a personalized plan," he advises. "Depending on your situation, this plan may include medications, dietary adjustments, and exercise guidelines tailored to your specific needs."

Additionally, Dr. Davis recommends working closely with your employer to explore options for a more balanced work schedule, which may include flexible hours or reduced workload. 

"Stress management techniques, like mindfulness and support from loved ones, are essential for a healthy heart," said Dr. Davis. "Prioritizing cardiovascular health through a balanced approach to nutrition, work, exercise, and stress management can help individuals mitigate their cardiac risks and lead healthier, happier lives."

Your Heart Deserves as Much Care as Your Career

Understanding the negative impact of unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to long working hours is essential. By prioritizing physical and mental well-being, individuals can better manage stress and reduce the risks to their heart health, ultimately leading to a happier and healthier life both in and out of the workplace. Remember, your heart deserves as much love and care as your career.

Are all those long hours putting too much stress on your heart? Don't wait! Consult a primary care physician or cardiologist right away!