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FRIDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- In tough economic times, work stress might be hard to avoid. But for people in stressful jobs, it's especially important to take steps to manage the stress in order to protect the heart.
That's because stress not only has been shown to increase the risk of a first heart attack, but also a second.
"Work stress is bad for the heart, because it causes your body to be in a state of high arousal all the time," said Dr. Redford Williams, director of the behavioral medicine research center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
"There are a lot of physiological changes that go with this heightened state -- a raise in blood pressure, increased adrenaline and maybe inflammatory molecules, like CRP are elevated with chronic stress," he explained.
Dr. Matthew Lucks, a cardiologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., said that "stress does a lot of damage to the body." As stress quickly raises blood pressure, the amount of resistance in the blood vessels goes up, he said, and this can cause an increase in the atherosclerotic process, meaning the narrowing of blood vessels.
Information on the increased heart attack risk from workplace stress came from a study of nearly 1,000 people, 35 to 59 years old, who returned to work after a heart attack.
Two years later, those who were in jobs with the highest stress levels -- stemming from high demands but low ability for the worker to control the situation or effect change -- had more than double the risk of a recurrent heart attack than people who had the lowest levels of workplace stress. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Lucks pointed out that other research has suggested that a stressful work environment causes a higher risk of heart attack, because it causes people to
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