Job strain may boost odds of serious artery disease


Work stress may increase your risk for ending up in the hospital with peripheral artery disease, a new study suggests.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when cholesterol or other fatty substances accumulate in blood vessels away from the heart – usually in the legs – and restrict blood flow. Left untreated, PAD increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Previous studies have linked work stress to other types of artery-clogging disease, but few have specifically examined PAD.

This new study assessed the association between work stress and hospital treatment for PAD. The results were published on 28 April in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Higher blood glucose levels

"Our findings suggest that work-related stress may be a risk factor for peripheral artery disease in a similar way as it is for heart disease and stroke," lead study author Katriina Heikkilä said in a journal news release. She's a senior researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Researchers analysed the health records of 139 000 men and women who took part in 11 studies conducted between 1985 and 2008 in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Participants were ages 39–49 on average, and had no history of PAD when the studies began.

Over an average 13 years of follow-up, 0.2% to 1.8% of the participants were hospitalised for PAD. The risk was 1.4 times higher among those with work stress than among those without work stress, according to the study, though only an association was seen.

There is limited evidence linking job strain to heart disease, but stress is associated with increased inflammation and higher blood glucose levels. This could contribute to complications and worsening of PAD, according to the researchers.

PAD affects more than 200 million people worldwide, including more than 8.5 million in the United States. Symptoms include leg pain while walking.

Image credit: Getty

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