Lots of people work more than 40 hours a week. Now a major British study shows that large amounts of overtime work is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Since to a large extent heart health is also brain health, it looks as though overtime work might have a negative effect on your brain as well.
The study is part of ongoing research on British civil servants and is usually called Whitehall II.The researchers are following more than 6,000 men and women who were first evaluated in the early 90’s. Eleven years later whether they had died from a heart attack, had a heart attack but survived, or had significant pain from their hearts (angina). People who regularly worked an extra 3 to 4 hours had 1.6 times the risk of having coronary heart disease than were those who did not.
I’ve written in the this blog and said in my talks that more and more evidence shows that the things that are heart healthy are probably also brain healthy. If you think about how many blood vessels are in your brain, it makes sense that the same things that can have a bad effect on the blood vessels of the heart can also hurt the ones in your brain.
I would say the message is clear: maintain a balance between work and the rest of your life. If you do have to work more than may be good for you, be sure to have a clear strategy for stress management. Close your eyes once or twice a day and just breathe. Maybe you can picture yourself on a beach or sitting by a mountain lake. Doing this regularly can have a surprisingly big impact on your stress levels, even if you are working until 10:00 a night.
Virtanen M et al. (2010) Overtime work and incidence coronary heart disease: the Whitehall II prospective cohort study. European Heart Journal advance access, published online May 11, 2010.doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehq124