Working an 11-hour day can increase heart attack danger by 67 per cent
By Sophie Borland
Last updated at 10:41 PM on 4th April 2011
Overworked: New research has found that those who work 11-hour days or more increase their chance of a heart attack by two thirds
If you’re about to embark on your usual 12-hour day at the office, you might want to pause a while – a few hours, actually.
A study has found that those who spend more than 11 hours at work increase their chance of having a heart attack by two thirds.
Researchers say the risk is so great that GPs should ask patients what hours they work along with how much they drink or smoke.
The team from University College London looked at more than 7,000 civil servants working in Whitehall over a period of 11 years and established how many hours they worked on average a day.
They also collected information including the condition of their heart from medical records and health checks.
Over the period, a total of 192 had suffered a heart attack. But the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that those who worked more than 11 hours a day were 67 per cent more likely to have one than those who had a ‘nine to five’ job.
The researchers say their findings could potentially prevent thousands of heart attacks a year as they would help GPs get a better idea of how likely a patient was to have one.
Patients already at high risk – by being obese or smoking, for example – could be encouraged to cut down on their working hours.
Professor Mika Kivimäki, who led the study, said: ‘We have shown that working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease.
‘Considering that including a measurement of working hours in a GP interview is so simple and useful, our research presents a strong case that it should become standard practice.
‘This new information should help improve decisions regarding medication for heart disease.
‘It could also be a wake-up call for people who over-work themselves, especially if they already have other risk factors,’ Professor Kivimäki added.
Around 2.6million Britons have heart disease, where the organ’s blood supply is blocked by the build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries.
It is the nation’s biggest killer, claiming 101,000 lives in this country every year.
Heart attacks occur when a coronary artery becomes completely blocked; if the blood supply is not restored, the section of the heart being supplied by the artery will die.
Patients are at far higher risk of heart disease if they smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are overweight or do not exercise.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘The Whitehall study has been hugely influential in shaping our understanding of the social determinants of heart disease.
‘These most recent findings raise the possibility that long working hours may increase the risk of a heart attack.
‘But further studies are required to confirm this association and clarify how it might be used to change our current approach to assessing someone’s risk of developing heart disease and what advice we give on working conditions.’
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