It’s already known that stress from work can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, particularly high blood pressure and heart disease. But a recent study now links work stress to an increased risk of stroke, especially for women.
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Dimensions of work
In the study, researchers in China compiled data from six studies with 138,782 participants. The researchers evaluated the link between job stress and future stroke risk. The researchers looked at two dimensions of work called psychological job demand and job control.
Psychological job demand means a worker’s time pressure, mental load and level of responsibilities. Job control is your control over decisions.
The researchers found that jobs with high demands and low control, such as waitress or nurses aide, were associated with a 22 percent increased risk of stroke compared with jobs with low demand and high control, such as architect or natural scientist.
The results were more pronounced for ischemic stroke, a type of stroke that is caused by a blood clot. Women were at greatest risk.
Neither jobs with high demand and high control, such as teacher or engineer, nor those with low demand and low control, such as manual labor jobs, were associated with an increased risk of stroke compared with the low strain jobs.
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Stress as a risk factor
The study, which appears in the journal Neurology, adds to the evidence that stress is harmful to your health and should be taken seriously, says stroke specialist Irene Katzan, MD.
“This adds to the evidence that stress is a risk factor for stroke and, specifically in this study, stress related to your job,” Dr. Katzan says.
Experts believe it’s possible that stress may cause inflammation in the body. This then can lead to stroke or heart attack.
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Simple ways to de-stress at work
For many of us, stress at work is inescapable. But there are strategies you can use to lessen the strain, Dr. Katzan says. The most important is to develop healthy eating habits and do some activity every day.
Stress may lead to unhealthy behaviors, Dr. Katzan says.
“If your job is stressful, be mindful of your blood pressure, eat healthy foods and get exercise,” Dr. Katzan says.
You also can take steps while on the job to take the tension down a notch. Here are some simple ways you can de-stress on the job:
- Breathe deeply to supply much-needed oxygen to the brain
- Get up and move several times during the workday
- Liven up your workspace with plants and soft colors
- Focus on one thing at a time, and recognize it when you finish tasks
Stroke Treatment Guide and Risk Assessment