Work stress and the fluttering heart

Work stress and the fluttering heart


A cranial-busting headache may be the smallest of health worries for anyone with an obnoxiously stressful job. But a bad job might be the cause of that unhealthy fluttering in your chest.

A Swedish study says job stress may significantly elevate the risk of a worker developing atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm more widely known as a heart flutter. Flutter seems a harmless enough word. After all, it’s what butterfly wings do.

But when the heart flutters, the consequences can be devastating.

Atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots and is responsible for up to 30 percent of all strokes. The condition makes it more likely someone will die prematurely.

Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion and chest pain.

Researchers tracked 13,200 study participants who were quizzed about job stress and then, after an average of nearly six years, were assessed to see if they had developed atrial fibrillation. The study found that work stress was tied to a 48 percent higher risk of heart flutter.

The study defined work stress as jobs that had high psychological demands with little control by employees. Sound familiar?

Researchers then did what is called a meta-analysis, which combined their study’s findings with the results from two similar projects by others. That analysis found work-stressed employees had a 37 percent higher risk of heart flutter.

Researchers say that people suffering heart palpitations or other heart symptoms should first consult a doctor and then talk to their boss about improving life at work.

Of course, the boss’ reaction might cause a worker’s heart to flutter anew, but the reward could be worth the risk.

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