Many of us do not think of the health hazards of our jobs. Who can fault us for that? The job market is getting more competitive with fewer spaces.
Many are just grateful for any gainful and profitable opportunity to earn a living. However, a new research by British scientists suggests that the thing to consider when taking up an employment should be the risk it poses to the health of our hearts.
The study reveals that people’s hearts are ageing “faster than their owners” because of the stress and the long hours, they spend at work.
The researchers, from the British National Health Care Service, after surveying 8,000 patients, observed that some occupations involved some lifestyle changes that could predispose them to diabetes and heart diseases.
According to the physicians, workers in industries pioneering health and wellbeing initiatives, such as teaching, medicine and information services had better heart health among their employees compared to those working in transport, property and construction industries.
Consultant cardiologist, Dr. Tosin Akinsanya, says although most people do not think of heart disease as occupational hazard, certain jobs may increase one’s risk of heart attacks and other problems.
According to him, work-related factors — such as sitting stress, irregular work hours, and exposure to certain chemicals or pollution — can also harm one’s heart.
The specialist notes that people who run shift jobs are at risk of suffering from sleep disorders, such as apnea, dementia as well as other neurological and cardiovascular diseases if they continue at those jobs for more than 25 years.
Akinsanya explains, “Rotating shift, a schedule common among doctors, nurses and others, is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Shift work itself may disrupt circadian rhythm, the “body clock” that plays a role in blood sugar, blood pressure, and insulin regulation.
“People in this occupation have to sleep at odd hours, they have to work many shifts. So, it is impossible for their bodies to have an internal clock or sleep pattern. They also have to respond to emergencies. That means they are inactive for many hours and suddenly active for nine hours at a stretch doing surgeries or monitoring patients in a critical condition.
“This kind of work wrecks your physical, mental and emotional health. Because they do not sleep well, it is confusing for the body to know when to use their cholesterol and glucose, which is a factor that can cause heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure. They must not stay at these jobs for too long. If they have to, they must be as active as athletes.”
The cardiologist adds that people who work desk jobs that require that they sit for at least six hours every day may suffer cardiovascular disease before they turn 50.
Corroborating this, Dr. Tope Aribisala says sitting for too long has negative effects on the body because it shuts down the metabolic pathways and some major calorie-burning functions in the body.
It also increases one’s risk of being obese.
He states that being obese is a predisposing factor for diseases, such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and sudden death arising from strokes.
Aribisala adds, “Though we have been saying that sitting for too long is not good, many people do not take it seriously. It is simple: when you are sitting, many metabolic processes in your body stop. They take a break till you start moving again.
“When you are sitting in a position for long, the fat in your body does not burn. Again, you gradually build up fat cells that may increase your chance of strokes, diabetes, and even cancer. Anytime the body does not burn calories, fat cells build up.”
The cardiologist, however, notes that jogging or exercising before going to work will not make up for sitting for long at work in the day.
He says, “Many people think because they exercise, they are exempted from this risk. They may be wrong, as sitting for long compromises all the benefits of going to the gym regularly. Even if you jog or work out every morning, if you sit for long at work, you are still at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
“That is why people should not hold desk jobs for more than 20 years, so they can reduce their risk of sudden heart attack, and that is if they spend the next 20 years doing active work and exercises to make up for the time they lost.”
Obviously, you cannot quit your job just because it has odd working hours or unpredictable hazards. But you can work around the challenges that your occupation drops at your table.”
Aribisla also warns that one cannot afford to be a couch potato at work, whatever the nature of one’s job. According to him, one must create time for breaks and stretches.
He advises that taking the stairs at work instead of the elevators and going for 30 minutes’ walk, or simply standing for some minutes while working at one’s computer, will kick up one’s metabolism.
He adds, “If your organisation has a gym, please make use of it. If not, walk around your office building at least three times a week.
“As a nurse or doctor, try to check on your patients in the wards more often. Get moving. You are not only helping your patients, you are helping yourself to stay healthy.”