Recently, new research, whose findings appear in the Journal of American Heart Association, looks at the prevalence and risk of developing heart disease and high levels of stress at workplaces.
More specifically, the researchers were interested in seeing whether work-related stress can be a contributing factor in cardiovascular diseases. The research confirms that psychosocial including the impact of workload do play a fundamental role in determining the health of the heart.
In accordance with the results of the study, the complex relationship between work-related stress and heart health can increase the likelihood of having a certain kind of cardiovascular condition known as peripheral artery disease or PAD.
Peripheral artery disease begins when the arteries of a person get clogged due to amalgamation of fatty substances or cholesterol, thereby hindering the blood flow. Usually, the arteries that are affected are located far away from the heart.
For instance, in the majority of the cases of peripheral artery disease, the clogging begins in the legs and stops the blood from circulating in them. One of the most common symptoms of PAD is experiencing leg pain while walking.
The condition can be treated given that it is diagnosed at the right time. If left untreated, PAD may increase the risk for serious and potentially life-threatening health issues such as having a stroke.
Currently, there are over two hundred million cases pf peripheral artery disease with approximately eight million being in the United States alone. Even though the prevalence of the cardiovascular condition is high, there is a gap in research on it.
While there is a big number of studies on the development and treatment for PAD, there is a lack of research on the identification of preventive risk factors of the health condition.
Previously, research has shown the impact of work-related stress on the physical and mental health of a person and has shown that it can indeed cause negative effects. In addition, it can contribute significantly to diseases including different forms of atherosclerosis.
Now, the new study corroborates the link between peripheral artery disease and stressful jobs. Work-related stress in the medical literature is the name used for social and psychological stress from all kinds of jobs.
To reach this conclusion, the team of researchers assessed data of 139,000 women and men who were all participants of eleven separate studies held between the years 1985-2008 in different countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.
None of the participants reportedly had symptoms of peripheral artery disease at the beginning of each of the studies.
The study data provided information on participants including sex, physical activity level, diet, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, Body Mass Index, medical health history, socio-economic status, diabetes-related history, income level, and a questionnaire on job strain.
In the twelve-year follow-up of the study, around six hundred and sixty-seven people were diagnosed with and hospitalized for peripheral artery disease.
The researchers noted that people with high levels of work-related stress had a 1.4 times higher risk of developing and being hospitalized for PAD in comparison with those with no or low levels of work-related stress.
These findings remained even after adjusting for factors such as age, gender, and different lifestyles.
The leading author of the study, who is also a senior researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Katriina Heikkilä explains the findings, saying “Our findings suggest that work-related stress may be a risk factor for peripheral artery disease in a similar way as it is for heart disease and stroke,”
In addition to confirming the link, these findings may also explain the increase in cases of heart disease among the younger populations. Work-related stress combined with other factors can significantly impact the health instantly and in the long run.