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Job stress may increase your risk of heart disease, especially if you’re a man.

Stress is a known risk factor for heart disease. Chronic stress can result in high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as inflammation in the body. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. But while any kind of stress can be harmful, work-related stress may really be doing a number on your heart.

Several factors at work can impact your heart disease risk. People who are worried about losing their jobs are nearly 20 percent more likely to have heart disease than people who are secure in their jobs. But worrying about losing your job isn’t the only factor at work that affects heart health. It turns out that even if you like your job and feel secure in your position, you may be stressed due to factors like trying to balance work and home life, feeling competition at work or not feeling your efforts are sufficiently rewarded.

Men are especially prone to the effects of work stress – and that effect is compounded when they feel there is an imbalance between the effort they put in and the reward they receive. According to a recent study published in an American Heart Association journal, men who experience job stress and feel they put forth high effort but receive low rewards had twice the risk of heart disease as those who did not experience those stressors. This raised their risk of heart disease as much as being obese. The same effects were not seen in women, however.

Job stress can be due to many factors. You may feel you have high demands being placed on you, such as from a heavy workload, tight deadlines or too many responsibilities. You may also experience job stress if you feel you have low control over your work, such as having little or no decision-making power or not having much say in how tasks are performed.

There may be an imbalance between the effort you put in and the reward you receive if you often go above and beyond what is asked of you but think you don’t get the credit or compensation you deserve. Or you may feel like you don’t have job security even if you’re doing everything right.

Although you may not be able to control the amount of work stress placed on you without finding another job, there are steps you can take to help you manage stress and keep your heart healthier. This includes getting plenty of exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and building a strong support system. Find things to do outside of work that you help you relax and bring you joy. Talk to a mental health professional to help you manage feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

While at work, do what you can to gain some control over your environment. And if you feel like work stress is more than you can handle, it may be time to consider a career change – your heart is too important to let your job get the best of you.

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Date Last Reviewed: April 19, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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