The results of a new research study could provide the impetus to improve or adopt a healthy lifestyle — especially for those with stressful jobs.
As reported in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), researchers discovered people with job stress and an unhealthy lifestyle are at higher risk of coronary artery disease than people who have job stress but lead healthy lifestyles.
Researchers studied the effect of a healthy lifestyle on reducing the effects of stress on coronary artery disease by reviewing seven cohort studies from a European initiative that included more than 100,000 people.
Subjects were disease-free during the 15-year study period (1985-2000), ranged in age from 17 to 70 (mean 44.3) years, and resided in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden and Finland. More than half (52 percent) were women.
Of the total participants, nearly 16,000 individuals (16 percent) reported job stress, which was determined from specific job-related questions in the studies.
The investigators defined three lifestyle categories based on smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity/inactivity and obesity (body mass index).
A “healthy lifestyle” had no lifestyle risk factors, “moderately unhealthy lifestyle” had one risk factor and “unhealthy lifestyle” included 2 to 4 lifestyle risk factors.
A total of 1,086 participants had incident events of coronary artery disease events during the followup period.
The 10-year incidence of coronary artery disease was 18.4 per 1000 people for people with job strain and 14.7 for those without job strain.
People with an unhealthy lifestyle had a significantly higher 10-year incidence rate (30.6 per 1000) compared to those with a healthy lifestyle (12.0 per 1000). The incidence rate was 31.2 per 1000 for participants with job strain and an unhealthy lifestyle but only 14.7 for those with job strain and a healthy lifestyle.
“The risk of coronary artery disease was highest among participants who reported job strain and an unhealthy lifestyle; those with job strain and a healthy lifestyle had about half the rate of this disease,” said researcher Mika Kivimäki, Ph.D.
“These observational data suggest that a healthy lifestyle could substantially reduce the risk of coronary artery disease risk among people with job strain.”
Evidence from randomized controlled trials has shown that lifestyle changes such as weight loss and stopping smoking can reduce the risk of disease.
“In addition to stress counseling, clinicians might consider paying closer attention to lifestyle risk factors in patients who report job strain,” the authors conclude.