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Intervention Can Cut Job Stress While Protecting the Heart

A simple workplace intervention can reduce the impact of stress on the heart, researchers reported in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association//.

Office workers who faced layoffs -- a significant stress-inducer -- were able to achieve small, but significant changes in heart rate variability and a small decrease in arterial blood pressure by participating in a stress management program at work.

After participating in the year-long stress management program, workers' scores on a test that measures perceived stress were significantly lower than baseline scores. Moreover, workers said they felt less tired than they did before the stress management training.

"And we were able to achieve these results in a working environment, without impinging on productivity, and with zero cost to the company," said Massimo Pagani, M.D., senior author of the study and professor of medicine at the University of Milan in Italy.

Job-related stress is one of several factors that may increase the risk of heart attack. So by addressing stress "at work, where stress occurs, rather than in a clinic, we may be able to prevent these workers from becoming patients," Pagani said.

Researchers recruited 91 office workers at a DuPont subsidiary in Italy which was downsizing its workforce by 10 percent. The average age of the volunteers was 40 years of age, 59 were men, who were, on average, normal weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 24 kg/m2. All of the volunteers said they were experiencing work-related stress.

The stressed workers were compared to a control group of 79 healthy volunteers, who worked outside of the company and reported no work-related stress. The average age of controls was 38, 52 were men, and the average BMI was 23 kg/m2.

Workers and controls underwent baseline assessment by a clinical psychologist and completed self-administered questionnaires which assessed overall stress, tiredn
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