Job stress increases the risk of heart disease, but living a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce that risk, a new study says.
Researchers examined data from more than 102,000 men and women, aged 17 to 70, in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden and Finland. Their lifestyles were rated in one of three categories — healthy, moderately unhealthy or unhealthy — based on smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise/inactivity and obesity.
Those with a healthy lifestyle had no lifestyle risk factors, while people with a moderately unhealthy lifestyle had one risk factor. Two or more risk factors qualified as an unhealthy lifestyle.
Nearly 16 percent of the participants reported job stress, according to the study, which was published May 13 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Over 10 years, the rate of coronary artery disease was 18.4 per 1,000 for people with job stress and 14.7 per 1,000 for those without job stress. The rate of heart disease for people with an unhealthy lifestyle was almost 31 per 1,000 compared to 12 per 1,000 for those with a healthy lifestyle.
When lifestyle and work were factored together, the heart disease rate was 31.2 per 1,000 for people with job stress and an unhealthy lifestyle and about 15 per 1,000 for those with job stress and a healthy lifestyle.
"The risk of coronary artery disease was highest among participants who reported job strain and an unhealthy lifestyle; those with job strain and a healthy lifestyle had about half the rate of this disease," Mika Kivimaki, M.D., of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.
"These observational data suggest that a healthy lifestyle could substantially reduce the risk of coronary artery disease risk among people with job strain," they added.
Stress counseling isn't enough, they said. "Clinicians might consider paying closer attention to lifestyle risk factors in patients who report job strain," the researchers concluded.