Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do you work too much? I hope you are in shape! -- Study links heart disease and fitness to hours worked

In graduate school, my girlfriend (now wife) and I made yearly trips to mainland Europe for vacation. After visiting France, Spain and Italy, I was drawn to the people and their attitudes toward work, health, and life. In my eyes, it seems Europeans prioritize family and health over work, whereas work takes higher billing in America. It's my own generalization, so take from it what you will.

There's nothing wrong with working hard, but when should we draw the line? Is a 40 hour workweek to long? Too short?

Are you really productive at the end of a long work day? How about after working 60 hours in a week? I knew plenty of people who "worked" long hours but were not productive. What a waste of time! My benchmark is productivity, not hours worked.

Working too long for an extended period of time is harmful, at least that's what I believe. Now there's scientific data that supports what I've thought all along. Researchers in Denmark published an article in the journal Heart titled "Long work hours and physical fitness: 30-year risk of ischaemic heart disease and all-cause mortality among middle-aged Caucasian men."

You can read the abstract (below), but it basically says that men working long hours who have low physical fitness are at greater risk of dying from heart disease.

Here's a question: if you work long hours, do you even have time to be physically fit?

Background No previous long-term studies have examined if workers with low physical fitness have an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality due to long work hours. The aim of this study was to test this hypothesis. Methods The study comprised 30-year follow-up of a cohort of 5249 gainfully employed men aged 40-59 years in the Copenhagen Male Study. 274 men with cardiovascular disease were excluded from the follow-up. Physical fitness (maximal oxygen consumption, Vo(2)max) was estimated using the Astrand bicycle ergometer test, and number of work hours was obtained from questionnaire items; 4943 men were eligible for the incidence study. Results 587 men (11.9%) died because of ischaemic heart disease (IHD). Cox analyses adjusted for age, blood pressure, smoking, alcohol, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, physical work demands, and social class, showed that working more than 45 h/week was associated with an increased risk of IHD mortality in the least fit (Vo(2)max range 15-26; HR 2.28, 95% CI 1.10 to 4.73), but not intermediate (Vo(2)max range 27-38; HR 0.94, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.51) and most fit men (Vo(2)max range 39-78; HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.41 to 2.02) referencing men working less than 40 h/week. Conclusions: The findings indicate that men with low physical fitness are at increased risk for IHD mortality from working long hours. Men working long hours should be physically fit.

-Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

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