Could long work hours harm your heart?

Author: Nina Kajee

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is old news, but there’s a good reason so many health publications are about CVD and the importance of heart health – 31 per cent of all deaths globally is a really big deal! The WHO typically recommends the following ways to prevent and/or manage CVD: 

 

  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke

  • Reduce salt intake

  • Eating more fruit and veg daily

  • Regular physical activity

  • Avoiding alcohol in excess

  • Drug treatment for CVD ailments prescribed by your doctor

 

But let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known and practical ways you can prevent and/or manage CVD.

 

Avoid noise

 

WebMD suggests avoiding noise above 50 decibels. To give you perspective, the hum of a refrigerator clocks in at 40 decibels. City traffic or an air conditioner starts at 70 decibels. Researchers believe it may be our intrinsic reaction to stress that ties our risk of stroke and high blood pressure to the noise we’re exposed to.

 

Hi-intensity interval training (HIIT)

 

A study conducted in 2019 and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that HIIT is superior to its cousin, moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), in that it significantly improves heart and lung fitness when your hi-intensity intervals start exceeding two minutes. Referred to as cardiorespiratory fitness in some countries, cardiopulmonary fitness has a direct link to predicting, lowering, and managing CVD.

 

Resistance training

 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, using something as simple as free weights for strength training at least twice a week can help you raise your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). This is only effective if used in combination with cardiovascular exercise.

 

Don’t be lonely

 

Also, according to WebMD, loneliness can up your chances of heart disease or stroke as much as second-hand smoke does. If you want to enjoy two for the price of one in heart health, make your HIIT or resistance training session a group activity, if possible.

 

Gum disease 

 

Dr Robert Shmerling of Harvard Health confirms the connection between poor dental hygiene and increased risk of CVD, as revealed by research. The reason for this link is unclear, but the strongest theories so far include (1) the easy access mouth bacteria have to the rest of your body via the digestive tract and (2) the body’s immune response (inflammation) being triggered by bacteria originating in the mouth.

 

Working long hours

 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information released a study in 2018, summarising the evidence of the relationship between CVD and working long hours. The reason for this link is not clear, but since cutting back on your working hours will provide more time for pleasure, we suggest you consider how you can. 

 

By following the WHO guidelines and the more specific suggestions above you could reduce your risk of CVD. Go on, have a heart – a healthy one.

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