Why Working Too Much Really is Bad for Your Heart

By Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger, R.D.

If you’ve been burning the midnight oil at work, you might want to forward this blog to your boss. New and emerging research published recently in the European Heart Journal found that British civil service employees who worked 11 to 12 hours per day had a significantly higher risk of heart attack, angina or coronary death than those who clocked a normal eight-hour workday. The link between heart disease and overtime work, researchers suggested, could be explained by “type A” behavior (such as aggressive, competitive and perfectionist tendencies), stress (like depression and anxiety) and possibly not enough sleep—or enough time to unwind before hitting the hay.

Studies like these serve as a good reminder that controlling your heart health isn’t just about nutrition and fitness. These days, the (relative!) convenience of smartphones, laptops and other work-from-home tools, make it all too easy to blur the lines between business hours and downtime. If you regularly find yourself working overtime, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your work-life balance and make some changes. After all, if you’re trying to improve upon your diet and level of physical activity in order to manage your heart-disease risk, improving your work-life balance should take equal priority. Easier said than done, I know.

A good way to start is to simply designate one day per week that you’ll work reasonable hours. When you’ve got that routine under your belt, try for more days during the week, if you can. But if an eight-hour day just isn’t possible for you, the good news is that the study found working a just a few (one or two) overtime hours won’t come at an expense to your health. Just as you keep a careful eye on the food you eat, make it your mission to be conscious of the hours you work, too.

So, on that note, I think I’ll close my laptop and sign off. It’s quittin’ time.


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