Work stress may lead to irregular heart rate

Job pressure can cause a rapid and irregular heart rate called atrial fibrillation. Research by Jonkoping University in Sweden finds that work stress is a risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease.

Too much job pressure may increase your risk developing a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to a stroke, dementia, heart failure and other complications. The study found that being stressed at work was associated with a 48 per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation. "Work stress has previously been linked with coronary heart disease. Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease," said study author Eleonor Fransson from Jonkoping University in Sweden.

"People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work," she explained. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, included 13,200 participants enrolled into the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006, 2008, or 2010.

For the study, the team defined work stress as job strain, which refers to jobs with high psychological demands combined with low control over the work situation. Participants were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure. They also completed postal surveys on sociodemographics, lifestyle, health, and work-related factors which included questions on job demands and control.

After a median follow-up of 5.7 years, the researchers identified that work stress was a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. "Atrial fibrillation is a common condition with serious consequences and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it," Fransson explained. The symptoms of atrial fibrillation, according to the authors, may include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, feeling light headed, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

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