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How Overworking Hurts Your Heart

Jan 21, 2022

Consistently logging long hours at work can leave you stressed and fatigued, but there’s a potential consequence that may not be readily apparent — a higher risk of heart-related complications.

Your heart is no stranger to hard work — if you live 70 years, it may beat more than 2.5 billion times, according to the American Heart Association. The heart’s labor often goes unnoticed, unless racing, fluttering or another abnormal symptom occurs. When you work too much, however, your heart pays attention — and may pay a price.

Overworking can increase your risk for several serious cardiac events and conditions. Here’s a look at what researchers have learned:

  • According to a 2018 study in the journal Current Cardiology Reports, working 55 hours or more per week may increase your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke, possibly related to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation. This is the most common type of arrhythmia, and it’s a major risk factor for stroke.
  • In a 2019 study published in Stroke, researchers found that individuals who worked more than 10 hours per day for at least 50 days per year were more likely to have a stroke.
  • Working 55 hours or more per week after a heart attack may raise your risk of having a second heart attack, according to a 2021 study that appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Can Getting Away Help You Get Healthy?

The difficulty of pausing projects or the thought of emails piling up in your inbox can make taking time off from work seem daunting. There are, however, several compelling, health-related reasons to schedule a vacation, including:

  • Making you a more effective worker. Getting away from work-related stress can boost your creativity and productivity when you return to work.
  • Protecting your heart. The Framingham Heart Study, which has been active for more than 70 years, found that skipping an annual vacation just once could increase heart disease risk.
  • Reducing stress. Long-term stress is bad for your heart and immune system. Taking a vacation can help you let go of worries.

Did You Know?

  • On average, people with atrial fibrillation are four to six times more likely to have a stroke, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • The long-running Framingham Heart Study found that men who went years without taking a vacation had a 30 percent higher risk of having a heart attack.
  • In 2020, a study published in JAMA Network reported an increase in stress-related cardiomyopathy, a cardiac condition that causes chest pain and heart dysfunction, in just the first two months of the pandemic.

Health care starts with you. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms, it’s up to you to pay attention and decide how to respond—whether you call your doctor for an appointment, go to the emergency room or call 911.

If you need immediate medical care, the ER at Evanston Regional Hospital is here for you. Learn more about Evanston Regional Hospital‘s ER.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.