It is no surprise that some jobs may be dangerous to your health, but some on-the-job dangers are not as obvious as others. A new study says that office support workers and salespeople are among some of the workers who are most at risk for heart disease, thanks to their unhealthy habits.
The study comes from researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who presented their findings at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 meeting. To discover a link between type of work and heart health, the researchers looked at 5,566 American men and women who were employed. They were aged 45 or older, black or white, and did not have a history of heart disease or stroke.
The researchers looked at different measures of health, including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and body mass index. These factors have all been linked to heart health. Using that information along with data about diet, physical activity, and whether the participants were smokers, the researchers gave each worker a heart score using the Life’s Simple 7 assessment from the AHA. To score high in the diet category, the participants had to complete four out of five goals, including eating fish at least twice a week, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables daily, eating whole grains daily, and keeping their sodium and sugar intakes low.
The assessment gives an indication of heart health, with a score of ten indicating ideal cardiovascular health. Those with ideal heart health get 150 minutes of physical activity a week, complete four out of five dietary goals, have blood pressure below 120/80 mm HG, have cholesterol below 200 mg/dL, and have blood glucose levels below 100 mg/dL fasting or 140 mg/dL without fasting. Fewer than 41 percent of the workers in the study received an ideal score.
Not surprisingly, office and administrative support workers had the least physical activity as they spent much of their day at their desks. 82 percent of these workers failed to meet the ideal physical activity score, and over 68 percent of the office workers also had poor eating habits.
Sales workers were most likely to have a poor cholesterol score, with 69 percent of them failing to reach the ideal score. 68 percent of them also had poor eating habits to go along with their high cholesterol. Workers in business and finance were especially likely to have poor diets, at 72 percent.
Although office workers like administrative and sales staff had poor heart health scores, so did transportation workers and movers. Although this group was more likely to get physical exercise on the job, 22 percent of them were smokers. Because smoking is such a high risk factor for heart disease, this put the transportation workers and movers at the highest risk for heart disease across all occupations.
You would think that those who work in food preparation would know the most about food and diet, but that may not be the case. This group scored the worst for dietary goals, with 79 percent of food preparation workers having a poor diet. Similarly, you may think that police and firefighters would get the most exercise, but 90 percent of these workers in the study were classed as obese. 35 percent also had high blood pressure and 77 percent did not have ideal cholesterol levels.
Despite the stereotype of business managers being at risk for heart attack, that may not actually be the case. It seems that managers and professionals had better heart health. 30 percent of these workers had the ideal body mass index, 75 percent participated in moderate physical activity, and only 6 percent were smokers.
Overall, it seemed working hours had a large impact on heart health. The study found that those working the night shift, inflexible work schedules, and long hours had more trouble reaching the heart health goals than those working a regular daytime shift. The researchers believe this is likely because these workers have less time to shop and prepare healthy meals and less time to exercise, resulting in more stress on their bodies.
Although the study notes occupations that are more and less likely to lead to healthy hearts, the results are not set in stone. Despite their occupation, workers still have the power to improve their heart health by quitting smoking, improving their diets, and getting more exercise outside of work hours.