Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study of Whitehall civil servants explains how stress at work is linked to heart disease

23.01.2008
New research has produced strong evidence of how work stress is linked to the biological mechanisms involved in the onset of heart disease.

Published in Europe’s leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal [1] today (Wednesday 23 January), the research is the first large-scale study to look at the cardiovascular mechanisms of work stress in the population and provides the strongest evidence yet of the way it can lead to coronary heart disease (CHD), either directly, by activating stress pathways controlled by the interaction between the nervous system, the endocrine glands and their hormones (neuroendocrine mechanisms), or indirectly via its association with unhealthy lifestyles.

The research is part of the long-running Whitehall II study, which has been following 10,308 London-based civil servants since 1985, and which is led by Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, UK.

Dr Tarani Chandola, a senior lecturer in UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, the first author of this EHJ study, said: “Stress at work is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease but the mechanisms underlying this association have remained unclear until now.

“This study addressed three questions: 1) Is the accumulation of work stress associated with higher risks of incident CHD and risk factors? 2) Is this association stronger among working-age populations? 3) Does work stress affect CHD directly through neuroendocrine mechanisms, or indirectly through behavioural risk factors for CHD, or both?”

The researchers collected evidence on the incidence of CHD, deaths from CHD, non-fatal myocardial infarctions, angina, heart rate variability, morning rises in the levels of the “stress” hormone cortisol, the metabolic syndrome [2] and behavioural risk factors such as diet, exercise, smoking and drinking.

“During 12 years of follow-up, we found that chronic work stress was associated with CHD and this association was stronger among both men and women aged under 50 – their risk of CHD was an average of 68% more than for people who reported no stress at work. Among people of retirement age (and therefore less likely to be exposed to work stress), the effect on CHD was less strong.”

Dr Chandola said the most important new finding was the evidence linking work stress with the biological mechanisms underlying CHD. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the part of the nervous system that regulates involuntary actions, such as the action of the heart, and it has a central role in the neuroendocrine stress responses. The signals that are sent to the heart by the vagus nerve, telling it how to work and controlling the variability of the heart rate, are mediated by the ANS. The researchers found that workers who suffered from greater stress were more likely to have lowered heart rate variability and poor vagal tone. They also found that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) – a major part of the neuroendocrine system – was disturbed by greater stress, and this was shown by the fact that stressed workers had higher than normal morning levels of cortisol. These results were independent of the workers’ health behaviours.

“Adjusting for health behaviours did not change the association between work stress and low heart rate variability, suggesting a direct effect on the ANS and neuroendocrine function, rather than indirect effects through health behaviours,” said Dr Chandola. “The effect on the ANS and neuroendocrine function in turn affects the signals to the heart, leading to cardiac instability.”

The researchers also found work stress was associated with poor health behaviours that could lead indirectly to CHD. “There have been relatively few studies that have found an association between work stress and unhealthy behaviours. Work stress is associated with a poorer diet in terms of eating less fruit and vegetables, and less exercise. It has also been linked to problem drinking, although not in this study. In this study, around 32% of the effect of work stress on CHD could be explained by its effect on health behaviours and the metabolic syndrome,” he said.

He concluded: “This study demonstrates that cumulative stress at work can lead to CHD through direct activation of neuroendocrine stress pathways and indirectly through unhealthy behaviours.”

Notes:
[1] Work stress and coronary heart disease: what are the mechanisms? European Heart Journal, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehm584

[2] The metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Its components are high waist measurement, high fasting glucose, high triglycerides, high HDL cholesterol and hypertension.

Emma Mason | alfa
Further information:
http://www.escardio.org
http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/eurheartj/press_releases/freepdf/ehm584.pdf

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>