Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig of the Helmholtz Zentrum München headed a working group that observed more than 950 people in a population-based study called MONICA/KORA. Data was collected from questionnaires about psychological stress at work in conjunction with the concentration of something called inflammatory biomarkers in the blood. (Inflammation is one of the body’s ways of indicating infection or injury, information that researchers can then use to extrapolate other data.) The results showed that healthy workers exposed to stress at work faced twice the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Stress is a known cardiovascular risk factor, and more than half of the study’s participants faced stress in their workplaces. Stress can also lead to psychological problems such as depression, physical inactivity, and sleep disturbance. Doing one hour of exercise per week reduced the risk, but did not erase the elevated risk faced by those who regularly experience workplace stress. Dr. Rebecca Emeny, the study’s first author, hopes that this information can provide insight on preventative measures against stress-related diseases.
Environment and lifestyle play a major role in the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the goal of the Helmholtz Zentrum München is to develop new approaches to diagnosis, therapy, and prevention.
What can you do?
If you experience work-related stress, take a deep breath and take a closer look at the situation. Can you reduce stress by talking to your boss or team about redistributing tasks? Is a job change necessary? What can you do outside of work to blow off steam? Would more exercise make you feel better? A healthier diet? The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions examined the issue of work-related stress and concluded that individual solutions are far more effective than blanket answers. Every situation is different, but if you don’t see a way to reduce the stress factors in your job, don’t be afraid to ask for help.