Working Long Hours Could Cause High Blood Pressure, Study Finds
Workaholics, this one's for you. New research says if you work long hours, you're more likely to have high blood pressure—and that includes the kind that can go undetected.
Most of us have dealt work stress or even burnout from time to time, but if you're pushing yourself so hard at work that your health is at risk, something's gotta give.
And considering high blood pressure affects nearly half of U.S. adults, these findings offer us yet another reason to prioritize our work-life balance.
More hours linked with higher blood pressure.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University Hospital of Quebec. They gathered data from over 3,500 workers, comparing how many hours everyone worked, along with their blood pressures.
Even a little more than 40 hours of work per week (41 to 48 hours) was linked with a 54% higher chance of masked hypertension, and 42% higher chance of sustained hypertension. And working 49 hours a week or more? That was linked with a whopping 70% greater chance of masked hypertension and 66% greater chance of sustained hypertension.
(To be clear, masked hypertension is when your blood pressure readings appear normal in the doctor's office but are in the hypertensive range when you go about your day-to-day life.)
Combating a silent killer.
It's estimated that 15 to 30% of U.S. adults may have masked hypertension, with this study finding over 13% of its participants had it and weren't receiving treatment. And although the exact cause of masked hypertension isn't fully understood, it could very well be connected to stress triggers, considering the lower readings displayed at the doctor's but spikes in everyday life (say, at work).
The study's lead author, Xavier Trudel, Ph.D., says, "Both masked and sustained high blood pressure are linked to higher cardiovascular disease risk. People should be aware that long work hours might affect their heart health, and if they're working long hours, they should ask their doctors about checking their blood pressure over time with a wearable monitor."
After all, many cases of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the world, are caused by high blood pressure.
"Masked hypertension can affect someone for a long period of time and is associated, in the long term, with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease," Trudel says. "We have previously shown that over five years, about 1 out of 5 people with masked hypertension never showed high blood pressure in a clinical setting."
These findings might seem scary if your workweek is longer than average, but we promise, it's not all doom and gloom.
There are plenty of things you can do to help both manage stress and lower your blood pressure. Of course, talking to your boss about balancing your time could be a conversation worth having, but if you know that's not an option, adopting a mindfulness practice is proven to help lower blood pressure.
And no matter how many hours you're at work, when you're off the clock, try to be truly off the clock.
For more heart-healthy advice, check out this hormone expert's burnout antidote and how traditional Chinese medicine can help you prevent heart disease.