Working for long hours tied to increased blood pressure

Those who clock up long hours working may endanger their health, increasing their risk of high blood pressure, a new study found.

A team of researchers in Canada tracked the working hours and blood pressure of 3,500 white-collar workers at three public companies in Quebec. They found that office workers who spend long hours working are more likely to be hypertensive.

High blood pressure affects about 75 million American adults, that’s one in every three adults. Further, one in three adults has prehypertension, wherein the blood pressure reading is higher than normal but not yet high enough to fall into the high blood pressure range. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of adults in the United States have a type of condition called “masked hypertension”, which means their hypertension readings are normal during doctor’s visits but increased when measured elsewhere.

Image Credit: Mavo / SHutterstock
Image Credit: Mavo / Shutterstock

Long hours work and high blood pressure

Published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Hypertension, the study revealed that working 49 hours or more hours each week was tied to 66-percent increased risk of developing sustained hypertension and a 70-percent increased risk of developing masked hypertension, a type called that can do undetected.  

The researchers also found that working from 41 to 48 hours a week was associated with a 54-percent increased risk of having masked hypertension, and a 42-percent heightened likelihood of having sustained hypertension. The researchers considered other factors in the study such as smoking status, job strain, sex, age, education level, occupation, body mass index (BMI), and other health factors.

“Results suggest that long working hours are an independent risk factor for masked and sustained hypertension. Workplace strategies targeting long working hours could be effective in reducing the clinical and public health burden of hypertension,” the researchers wrote on the paper.

The study, which ran for five years, involved three phases of testing, in one year, three years, and five years follow-ups. The researchers had a trained assistant provide participants with a wearable monitor to measure resting blood pressure for about three times in one morning. When the workers are at work, they were asked to wear a blood pressure monitoring device, measuring the blood pressure every 15 minutes, being able to measure at least 20 measurements in one day.

Sustained hypertension is defined as a clinic blood pressure of more than 140/90 mm Hg and ambulatory blood pressure of more than 135/85 mm Hg.

Masked hypertension and sustained hypertension

The team also found that nearly 19 percent of the office workers had sustained hypertension, including those who are being treated for hypertension. Also, more than 13 percent of the workers had masked hypertension, wherein they were not receiving any treatment for hypertension.

"Both masked and sustained high blood pressure are linked to higher cardiovascular disease risk," Dr. Xavier Trudel, assistant professor in the social and preventive medicine department at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, and lead author of the study, said. "The observed associations accounted for job strain, a work stressor defined as a combination of high work demands and low decision-making authority. However, other related stressors might have an impact. Future research could examine whether family responsibilities - such as a worker's number of children, household duties and childcare role - might interact with work circumstances to explain high blood pressure,” he added.

Wearable monitors to measure blood pressure

The researchers emphasize the importance of working the right amount of time, without doing too much overtime. People should be aware that working long hours can affect their health, particularly their cardiovascular health. For those who are working long hours, they should be given blood pressure wearable monitors, which can measure blood pressure over time.

Further, doctors should detect masked hypertension through wearable monitors, since it goes undetected and can lead to serious complications. Masked hypertension is linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Without any signs and symptoms, and being undetected during doctor visits, the patient might get delayed diagnosis and treatment.

Journal reference:

Long Working Hours and the Prevalence of Masked and Sustained Hypertension Xavier Trudel, PhD, Chantal Brisson, PhD, Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet, PhD, Michel Vézina, MD, Denis Talbot, PhD, Alain Milot, MD, MSc, FRCP, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.12926

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

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Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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