People with high-strain jobs are at increased risk for atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a common heart rhythm disorder that can lead to strokes, according to a Swedish study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in July 2018.
Such jobs involve high psychological demands but little control over the work situation. Researchers looked at 13,200 people who were employed and had no history of a-fib or other cardiovascular disease. The participants filled out surveys about their work to determine, in particular, if they had job strain. Over the next six years, 145 of the participants developed a-fib. Having a high-strain job increased the risk by nearly 50 percent; the researchers controlled for age, education, weight, smoking, physical activity, and other factors. They also compared the results to two previous Swedish studies and found the same pattern.
People with high-strain jobs should speak to their employers about improving their work situation. Those who work for a company with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should make an EAP appointment for a stress consult to help them manage their stress. Employees with high-strain jobs who don’t have access to an EAP can ask their primary care provider for a referral to a mental health professional for a stress consult.
Anyone experiencing palpitations or irregular pulse (symptoms of a-fib) should seek medical attention.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.