(BlackDoctor.org) — Putting in long hours at the office may help achieve satisfaction at your job, but a new body of evidence indicates that working 10 or 11 hours a day substantially increases the risk of serious heart problems, as opposed to clocking out after seven hours.
The finding, which was published in the European Heart Journal, found that individuals who regularly work beyond “the normal, seven-hour day” were up 60 percent more likely to suffer from heart-related conditions compared with those who didn’t work that amount of overtime — even after factors such as age, weight and smoking that affect the heart were ruled out.
According to the data from a long-term investigation into the health of more than 10,000 London office workers aged between 39 and 61 over 11 years, the possibility of overworking affecting the heart occurs after working between three and four hours extra a day.
The researchers said there could be a number of explanations for the possible link between overtime and heart problems.
These include undiagnosed high blood pressure, stress, sleep deprivation, anxiety or depression, and being a “Type A” personality who is highly driven, aggressive or irritable. Employees who work overtime may also be likely to work while ill.
It is possible to be successful at work and not become blighted by long, stressful hours. The key is to work smarter, not longer.
Here are a few tips to help slow down your inner workaholic:
• Require downtime. One of the theories as to why overtime work can increase one’s risk of coronary heart disease presented by this study’s authors was that people don’t get adequate downtime after work when they’re working 12-hour days, which inhibits their ability to de-stress and get over workplace anxiety.
Schedule short breaks throughout the day and allow some time to relax after returning home.
•Take care of yourself. It is impossible to have a productive day if you feel sick, tired or depressed. That’s because all of the facets of a healthy person — a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, keeping stress to a minimum — apply also to a productive person. When you feel good you will have the energy, mental capacity and desire to work efficiently.
•Stress. Relieving stress in your life can be one of the most challenging aspects, as we’re all faced with it daily. Relaxation can help to calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body, to help you fall asleep faster and feel more rested in the morning.
•Organize and prioritize. Make a “To-Do List” of all your tasks for the day. If a task is large, break it down into smaller, manageable ones and list them separately. Once you have all your tasks down, prioritize them.
•Organize your workspace. Keep your desk and work area free from clutter. File papers that you don’t need regularly, and throw away those that you won’t need again. A good tip is to organize your desk at the end of each day so it’s ready to go in the morning.
•Figure out your best work mode. Do you work best in the morning, afternoon or late at night? Do you need silence or does music help you concentrate? Do you think better sitting at your desk or taking a walk? Answering these types of questions can help you make the most of your day. For most people, the morning is when they work most efficiently. If this applies to you, get started on the most complex, thought-intensive projects first thing, and save the easier tasks for later in the day.
•Stay positive. If you have a tough day at work or feel you didn’t get all that you should have done, don’t worry. Everyone has these days, and the more you fret about them the worse it will make you feel.
• Make doctor visits as important as staff meetings. Although overtime workers in this study appeared healthy (they exercised, ate right, and got the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night), they were also less likely to take sick days, which suggests they could be ignoring symptoms of heart disease and not getting adequate preventive care. Make sure you get annual checkups, stick to a healthy diet, and don’t smoke or drink excessively.
By Brittany Gatson, BDO Staff Writer