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Work-life imbalance warning

Tuesday April 5th, 2011

People who spend long hours at work seem to face an increased risk of developing heart disease, British researchers reported last night.

The findings, from a major study of civil servants, take account of the likelihood that working long hours may increase physical unfitness.

According to the 25-year long study of more than 10,000 London-based government employees, working 11 hours or more a day increases the risk of developing heart disease by about two thirds.

The researchers from University College London, UK, published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Previously studies of UK civil servants have shown how stress from work links to heart disease - demonstrating that the most successful people faced reduced risk.

Experts said more research is needed to confirm the link with long working hours.

The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: "These most recent findings raise the possibility that long working hours may increase the risk of a heart attack.

"But further studies are required to confirm this association and clarify how it might be used to change our current approach to assessing someone’s risk of developing heart disease and what advice we give on working conditions.”

* Meanwhile yesterday the World Health Organisation suggested doctors should target patients with "multiple risk factors" for heart disease.

A new analysis suggests doctors might not need to give medicine to people who only show risk in one area - such as high cholesterol.

Writing in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, experts said the idea would help poorer countries tackle heart disease effectively.

Dr Pascal Bovet, of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, said: "If we treated only those with a high total cardiovascular risk, far fewer people would need to take medication and so this would reduce health-care costs significantly with comparable health benefits to the population."

Dr Shanthi Mendis, of WHO, said the approach was "highly cost-effective, affordable for low- and middle-income countries and brings a very good return for a modest investment."

Using Additional Information on Working Hours to Predict Coronary Heart Disease: A Cohort Study. Mika Kivima et al. Annals of Internal Medicine April 4 2011 vol. 154 no. 7 457-463

Bulletin of the World Health Organization April 2011

Tags: Europe | Fitness | Heart Health | UK News | World Health

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