Could the number of hours spent at work predict an individual’s chance of developing coronary heart disease?

One group of European researchers thinks it’s a possibility.

Based on the group’s findings, presented in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who worked more than 11 hours per day had a 1.5-fold increased risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared to other subjects working seven to eight hours per day.

Coronary heart disease, a condition that causes the blood vessels to the heart to narrow, is the leading cause of mortality in the United States. Other heart conditions such as angina and heart attacks contribute to the disease, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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The team used data on 7,095 civil service workers in London gathered over the span of 11 years. Within the group, roughly 10 percent worked more than 11 hours per day.

In addition to looking at cholesterol, blood pressure, exercise and family history, the researchers think doctors should consider the number of work hours for an individual while assessing risks for cardiovascular disease.

The results match up with other research on the topic, but there aren’t enough long-term studies to draw definitive conclusions just yet. Also, it’s unclear whether long work hours increase one’s risk for heart disease or whether they simply act as a “marker” for other factors such as poor eating, as brought up in a Reuters article on the study.

The inability to expand the results is a drawback of the study, too, the authors admit. Since most subjects had relatively low risks for developing coronary heart disease, it would be difficult to generalize the results to include people with higher risks of developing the condition.

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Regardless, the research highlights the need to consider the impact of work-related stress on personal health.

Good diet, exercise, avoiding smoking and reducing stress — perhaps through cutting working overtime at the office — may decrease the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

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