Job stress can start taking a toll on people's cardiac health as early as their early their early 30s, new research shows.
People who report high job strain - the combination of heavy demands and little control at the office - were found to have thicker carotid intima-media thickness (IMT). IMT is considered a reliable way of determining the early stages of atherosclerosis, the narrowing and stiffening of the arteries, even in men who have no other symptoms of the condition. This narrowing, which is the result of plaque buildups in the arteries, can result in a heart attack or stroke.
The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The study included 542 women and 478 men who were between the ages of 24 and 39 and had full-time jobs, about a third of whom had been working for about a decade. None of the participants had been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease.
Participants were assessed for job strain using two questionnaires, using these questions:
·Do you have to hurry to get your work done?
·Does your work have phases that are too difficult?
·Is your work mentally strenuous?
While women reported high levels of job strain more than men, men who reported high levels of strain were found to have, on average, IMT that was 0.03 mm thicker than that of men who reported low job strain. This association was not found for women, but in men it held true even after accounting for other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, weight and exercise. The Carotid artery thickness was measured using ultrasounds.
Prospective studies in older subjects have shown that even a 0.1-mm increase in carotid IMT may increase the subsequent risk of cardiovascular heart disease events by approximately 30 percent.