Long Work Hours, Emotional Stress Hurts Your Heart

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Thomas Stoughton
McLeod Cardiology Associates

The body’s response to a stressful event is simple. Adrenalin kicks in. Heart rate accelerates. Blood pressure rises. It’s the perfect preparation to fight or flee. However, sustained stress at work, home or elsewhere can hurt your heart.

“When we list techniques to prevent heart problems, we most commonly discuss diet or exercise,” says McLeod Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Stoughton. “Emotional health from anxiety to depression can also impact blood pressure, circulation and heart health.”

A survey of literature revealed the following: Stress triggers an increase in heart rate. When the heart beats more than 100 times a minute (tachycardia), the heart needs more oxygen while the rapid heart rate actually reduces oxygen to the heart. As a person becomes concerned about their physical condition, the body senses increased anxiety, further reducing the heart’s effectiveness.

Other studies reveal that if stress leads to anger or irritation, the likelihood of heart disease or a heart attack increases and may become a greater risk factor for heart disease than smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

A recent survey reported that more than half of Americans consider themselves a “workaholic.” Established research shows that too many office hours, with the related stress, raises your stroke risk. New research indicates that people who spend more than 55 hours a week at work are increasing their risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) by 40 percent.

Seek better work-life balance. Mix in some recreational time. Occasionally, turn off your phone.

If you are feeling continued anxiety or stress, talk to your personal physician about it. If you think stress is affecting your heart, see a cardiologist.

Find a Cardiologist near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, Concordia University, European Heart Journal, American Psychological Association, Journal of the American Medical Association