Monday, August 12, 2013

Can Healthy Habits Counter Stress?

While stress can be positive, it becomes negative when it continues without relief until a condition called distress occurs. Distress can cause physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping problems.

Stress can also lead to or worsen certain symptoms or diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, skin conditions, depression and anxiety. It is estimated that 43 percent of all adults suffer stress related health ailments.

A paper published on May 13, 2013 in the ‘Canadian Medical Association Journal’ by researchers from the University College London and other institutions reported that job strain was linked to a 25 percent higher chance of getting a heart attack or dying of heart problems. But the risks could be cut by 50 percent among people, either stressed or otherwise, who maintained a healthy lifestyle comparing to those who drank, smoked or were obese. Job stress was defined in the study as having a lot of demands at work with little control.

Though people have been encouraged to reduce work stress for heart disease prevention, this is sometimes unrealistic for certain group of people. As such, researchers were eager to find out whether adopting an otherwise healthy lifestyle would reduce heart disease risk among those with job strain.

Using data gathered from 7 European studies that surveyed 107,200 people about their general lifestyle habits that included how much strain they were under at work, the researchers found that about 1 in 6 initially reported being under job strain. None of these participants had heart disease at the start of the study.

Over the next 7 years, on average, there were about 1,100 heart attacks or deaths from heart disease. Over a decade, it was found that 12 cases per 1,000 generally healthy people without job strain and 31 per 1,000 people with job strain and multiple lifestyle risks like rarely exercising or having more than 3 or 4 alcoholic drinks a day.

Analysis also showed that approximately 4 percent of all heart attacks and deaths from heart disease could be due to job strain and about 26 percent to drinking, smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.

Nevertheless, the new study might underestimate the link between job strain and heart disease. Furthermore, other types of job stress that may influence heart risks, like having low social support and job insecurity, were not taken into account.

The new study also did not prove that pressure at work causes heart problems, though the results are in tandem with past studies that suggested chronic stress, including from job strain, could have negative health effects.

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association (AHA) also advise people with stress to adopt positive healthy habits that include performing daily physical activity, giving up bad habits, getting enough sleep and trying not to worry.

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