Do you have a high-stress job? A recent study has added a stressful job to the list of things that can raise your risk for stroke.
A stroke – also known as a brain attack – takes place when blood flow is cut off to a part of the brain, stopping the cells from getting the blood they need to live. Some brain cells may recover, but the damage may be permanent.
The new study, conducted at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, reviewed six previous studies that offered conflicting results on the topic in the past.
The researchers analysed previous studies on the topic involving more than 138,000 participants. They were followed for periods between three and 17 years in order to explore job stress and stroke risk.
Jobs were classified into four groups, depending on how much control workers had over their tasks and how demanding the job was. Factors such as time pressure, mental load and coordination burdens were taken into account. The total number of hours worked and physical labor involved were not considered.
The four job categories were:
- Passive jobs (low demand/low control): Jobs such as janitors, miners, and other types of manual laborers
- Low-stress jobs (low demand/high control): Jobs such as natural scientists and architects
- High-stress jobs (high demand/low control): Service industry jobs, including waitressing and nursing aides
- Active jobs (high demand/high control): Jobs such as doctors, teachers, and engineers
The study revealed that between 11 per cent and 27 per cent of participants held high-stress jobs. Research showed that people with high-stress jobs had a 22 percent greater risk of stroke than people in low-stress jobs.
The analysis also revealed that women were more susceptible to stroke overall; women with high-stress jobs had a 33 percent higher risk of stroke than women in low-stress jobs.
People with high-stress jobs were also 58 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke – due to an obstruction within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain – than those with low-stress jobs.
How and why does stress at work translate to a higher stroke risk? High-stress jobs are seen as likely to lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking, and a lack of exercise. They could also lead to activation of an unhealthy physiologic stress response system, including increased stress hormones, research has shown.
How can you recognise a stroke? The American Heart Association recommends remembering the acronym F.A.S.T., to help recognise the sudden signs and symptoms of a stroke:
F: Face Drooping
A: Arm Weakness
S: Speech Difficulty
T: Time to call 911
Other signs include numbness, confusion, dizziness and sudden severe headache.