Working more than a 40-hour week causes stress and dissatisfaction, but researchers have now linked long working hours with the narrowing and hardening of blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
Also read: Over 8 hours of work ups heart risk
The longer people worked, the higher were their chances of developing heart disease within the next 10 years, with those working 80 hours – roughly 12 hours a day seven days a week – almost doubling their chances of a heart attack, reported the American Journal of Industrial Medicine last week. Working 61 to 70 hours brought a 42% higher risk, 71 to 80 hours a 63% increased risk, and an 80-hours schedule a 94% higher risk.
More than your genes, it’s how you live your life that determines heart health. “90% heart attacks can be prevented by controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; eating high fibre-low fat food; staying fit; not smoking; and managing psychosocial factors such as stress,” says Dr Ashok Seth, chairman, cardiac sciences, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.
And it is never too late to start looking after your heart. Adopting four healthy behaviours -- eating at least five fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2.5 hours a week, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking –can lower your chances of heart disease and death by a third.
Cutting back on smoking, salt intake, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and obesity can prevent premature (under 70 years) deaths from heart or lung disease, stroke, cancer or diabetes by 40% (37 million lives saved) by 2025, compared with 2010, reported The Lancet medical journal in May.
Quit smoking, cut risk of heart attack
“The most critical benefit came from quitting tobacco. Halving smoking by 2025, instead of the global target of 30% reduction, would halve risk of early death,” said Dr Srinath K. Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.
“Smoking along with obesity, inactivity and bad diets perpetuates a chain of risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, each of which individually boosts the risk of heart disease,” adds Dr Reddy.
Smoking makes the blood viscous and triggers clot formation, which can block arteries and cause heart attacks even in healthy people. “It is the biggest cause of heart attacks in young people with no other risk factors,” Dr Seth.
(The nutritional plan for a healthy heart is eating less of saturated fats like butter and more of oils such as olive and mustard oils, eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day; six or more servings of wholegrains such as wheat and brown rice, low-fat milk products; legumes and beans; and fish and lean meats. One serving is roughly a cupful of uncooked food and half a cup of cooked food.)
The other factors are inactivity and stress. “You must have interests that take your mind off your work, be it photography, pets, music or exercising. Doing things that give you joy is the best way to unwind,” says Dr Seth.
Irrespective of where he is or how long his day has been, Dr Seth who does one hour of cardio and weight-training each day. He also trains in classical music and keeps aside two-three hours of for riyaaz (training) with his guru each week. “Singing for me is like meditation, it rejuvenates me and prepares me for the week ahead,” he says.
HEALTH TIP: To calculate your heart attack within the next 10 years, get a Framingham Risk Estimate that calculates risk based on a summary of major risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking.
Venting works! Talking about your problems or just whining about the day to a friend or partner gets your troubles off your chest. It also helps keep things in perspective and stops you from obsessing about your troubles and slipping into depression.
Stress tenses up your muscles, especially those around your neck, shoulders and upper back. Giving yourself a quick neck and shoulder rub helps relax the muscles, as does a hot shower before going to bed. Neck exercises also help ease up the tension. You can do it wherever you are. Sit or stand up looking straight ahead; while keeping your shoulders straight, slowly turn your head to the right as far as you can; hold for a count of 10; now turn your next to the left and repeat; do five repetitions for each side.
Start and finish your day with some light stretches to relax your muscles can help you de-stress and relax when you need it most. Reach out to the ceiling as far as you can go; gently bend back from your wasit; then bend forward to touch the floor. Do five repetitions.
Music you like helps unclutter your mind by overriding out negative thoughts and emotions. Keep music handy and whenever you feel situations and people around you are getting you down, plug in your earphones and tune them out.
Closing your eyes for 5 minutes and letting your mind slowly go blank can lower palpitation and blood pressure. It can flush out negativity and reboot your mind to deal with fresh challenges.