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Study: Job stress increases heart attack risk

A study published in the journal Lancet finds that job-related stress increases the risk of a heart attack.

According to an ABC News article about the study, a team of European researchers examined a total of 13 previous studies conducted between 1986 and 2006 evaluating job strain as a risk factor for heart attack and death.

Researchers found that people with highly demanding jobs who have little freedom to make decisions are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack – a finding that applied regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic status.

Although the study suggested a correlation, it was unable to definitively establish a cause-and-effect relationship. And the risk of having a heart attack from a stressful job appeared to be relatively low compared to factors such as smoking and not exercising.

Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to a certain section of the heart becomes blocked by obstructions such as a blood clot. Risk factors for blood clots that can trigger heart attacks include a family history of clots, long periods of physical inactivity, recent surgery and pregnancy.

While most types of birth control pills can also increase the risk of blood clots, a number of studies indicate that pills with the compound drospirenone can increase that risk up to three times more than other oral contraceptives on the market.

Pills with drospirenone include Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz and Ocella.

The researchers in the study evaluating the link between work and heart attacks analyzed data from about 200,000 patients for an average of 7.5 years, which amounts to more than two times the number of patients studied in a previous review.

According to the ABC News report, scientists speculate that the increase in job stress triggers the brain to go into a defensive “fight-or-flight” mode. Over time, that takes a toll on the body and the heart.

The report quotes lead study author Mika Kivimaki of University College London as saying: “The [theory] that work stress influences heart health is more than 30 years old. [But] the pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate [this] with greater precision than has been previously possible.”

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with a Beyaz lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries while on Beyaz or similar birth control pills.

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