Is work making your blood pressure climb?

Feb. 6, 2020—Putting in long hours at work? That overtime could be bad for your blood pressure, a new study suggests.

Researchers drew on data from 3,500 office workers. They found that working 49 or more hours each week was tied to a 66% higher chance of getting sustained high blood pressure.

The researchers also found that working long hours led to an even greater risk of masked hypertension—blood pressure that's normal in the doctor's office but high at other times. Often, this type of blood pressure is not detected during a routine medical appointment.

Untreated high blood pressure raises the risk of heart failure, heart attack and stroke. It contributes to more than 82,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, the American Heart Association reports.

Take control

These findings are why it's important to find a healthy work-life balance and to manage stress on the job, which contributes to serious health problems like heart disease, depression and obesity.

These tips from the American Psychological Association and Mental Health America can help you stay centered and healthy while working:

  • Take timeouts. Small breaks at work can refresh your focus and actually help you get more done. Breaks can also help you better manage job stress.
  • Set doable daily goals. Being able to meet priorities can help you feel more in control. So make a to-do list, tackle the most important tasks first and cross off unessential ones. Ask for help if you're still swamped.
  • Be efficient. The less time you spend procrastinating at work, the more you'll accomplish, which means you'll have more time for friends and family. If you're avoiding a big project because it seems overwhelming, break it down into small tasks.
  • Recharge. Don't let vacation days go to waste. Use your time off to relax and unwind.
  • Set work-life boundaries. You might make a rule to not check work email or texts at home or answer the phone at dinner.
  • Develop healthy responses. Rather than reacting to stress in an unhealthy way (like overeating or smoking), do your best to make good choices. Regular exercise is a great stress buster. Something as simple taking deep breaths can also help tame tension.
  • Talk to your supervisor. Be honest with your boss if long hours, a deadline or some other aspect of your job is stressing you out. But don't just complain. Suggest practical alternatives.
  • Get help if you need it. Don't let work-related stress jeopardize your health. Your employer may have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program. You may also want to reach out to a mental health professional. Taking care of yourself is a sign of strength—not weakness.

Just diagnosed with high blood pressure?

It's normal to feel anxious about managing a new disease. But there's a lot you can do to stay healthy—check out these tips.

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