HARTFORD (CBS Hartford)– Nobody enjoys the stress and strain of putting in extended hours at the office and new research shows those long days and nights could even pose a serious risk to your heart.

Researchers found that working 55 hours or more each week is linked to a 33 percent higher risk of stroke and a 13 percent higher risk of developing heart disease, compared to those who work 35 to 40 hours a week, as reported by CBS News.

The University College London study evaluated data from over 600,000 people from the U.S., Europe, and Australia while reviewing data examining the relationship between longer working hours and the effect on the heart.

“Long working hours are common and may affect [the] vascular system, but the evidence is limited,” study author Mika Kivimäki told CBS News. “We wanted to address this gap in knowledge. The five previous published studies on long working hours and coronary heart disease comprised 15,000 participants. With data from over 600,000 men and women, our study is 40 times larger.”

Compared to people who worked a standard 35 to 40 hour week, people who worked between 41 to 48 hours also had a 10 percent higher risk of stroke. When hours increased to 49 to 54 hours, chance of stroke rose to 27 percent.

Researchers note that the study shows only a association, but while there is no proof of a cause and effect relationship, working long hours can contribute to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors that impact health.

“When people spend more than 50 hours a week sitting down on a chair, obviously there’s more physical inactivity,” Dr. Rafael Alexander Ortiz, Director of Interventional Neuroradiology and Stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS News. “At the same time, people that have more stress because of longer working hours, there’s a correlation with increased alcohol consumption and potentially increased incidence of cigarette smoking.”

Researchers warn that patients and doctors should be aware of blood pressure levels, physical activity, nutrition, alcohol consumption, and stress management as a means of prevention.

“Management of vascular risk factors is particularly important for individuals who work long hours,” Kivimäki told CBS News.

Ortiz, who was not involved in the study, says that taking breaks from work to help decrease stress is recommended.

“It is important for people to recognize that there is a risk of developing other conditions because of the stressful environment at work,” he said. “So meditation, exercises that do help with clearing the mind. Maybe go for a walk on your lunch break.”

Study authors and outside experts agree that more research is needed to better understand the possibly harmful effects of long hours on the heart.

The findings were published Wednesday in The Lancet.


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