Having a stressful job increases the chance of a heart attack, even among those who take good care of their health, a UK-led study has found.
Having a stressful job with little autonomy raises the risk of a heart attack by almost a quarter, compared to having a job that is less demanding, according to the pan-European research.
Stressful high paid jobs appear to raise the risk of a heart attack more than those that are similarly taxing but are lower paid.
The study, published online in The Lancet today, found those in higher paid stressful jobs were more than 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those in less stressful, but equally well remunerated, positions.
Critically, researchers at University College London and other institutions took into account differences in age, sex and health lifestyle before calculating their estimates of risk.
That means among a group of people living healthy lives – eating well, exercising regularly and not smoking – those who had stressful jobs would still be at a relatively higher risk of heart attack.
Mika Kivimäki, from UCL, who led the research, said: Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, increased risk of experiencing a first coronary heart disease event such as a heart attack.
His team looked at results from 13 studies in seven countries including Britain, which tracked the health of nearly 200,000 people in total.
They concluded: Our findings suggest that prevention of workplace stress might decrease disease incidence; however, this strategy would have a much smaller effect than would tackling of standard risk factors, such as smoking.
Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), reiterated that advice, saying: Though stresses at work may be unavoidable, how you deal with these pressures is important, and lighting up a cigarette is bad news for your heart.
Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and quitting smoking will more than offset any risk associated with your job.