Working overtime could be killing you

Here’s a good reason to use that vacation time: Your risk for heart disease increases with the number of hours you work.

Your work “to-do” list needs to include cutting hours. Experts say working over 40 hours a week for an extended period of time increases your risk for heart disease — and even a deadly heart attack.

Most Americans who work full time report being on the job an average of 47 hours per week. According to a recent study, those extra hours can increase your chance of getting heart disease up to 16 percent — putting you at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, angina, heart failure and heart attack.

“Work-related stress has been the topic of conversation for years when it comes to our health, especially our heart health,” said Sean Stewart, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists. “The amount of time we spend on the clock can be stressful, limit our physical activity and enable us to make poor health choices — all leading to an increased risk for any level of heart disease.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, about 50 percent of us work more than 40 hours per week. Typically we work more hours in our 30s and 40s, which also happens to be the peak time for the development of early stages of heart disease.

“The more time someone spends at work, the less time and energy they have for stress-relieving activities, exercise, eating healthfully and getting proper rest,” Dr. Stewart said.

If you can’t cut the hours, what can you do? Dr. Stewart recommends:

  • Use your down time wisely: Incorporate quality personal or family time with exercise by scheduling fun activities that get you moving.
  • Prep meals to avoid fast food traps: Plan meals ahead of time and do as much food preparation in advance as you can. This can include packing meals and snacks for work as well as having dinner put together ahead of time. Crockpot cooking or cooking and freezing large batches of food can save you tons of time.
  • When you do have time off, unplug: If time off is in short supply, then when you do have a few hours or a day off, unplug from devices and TV and reconnect with yourself.
  • Know when to ask for help: If you still can’t find a way to balance your work and personal lives, it may be time to talk to your boss or a mentor. Don’t let the imbalance affect your health before reaching out for help from your leader, a colleague or a friend.


In addition to work, lots of other things play a role in your risk for heart disease. Do you know how healthy your heart is? Take a quick online heart disease risk assessment to find out.

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