Is Your Job Killing You

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Friday, February 18, 2011 - 10:12am

Study finds office jobs are taking their toll on heart healthiness.

Millions of people spend the work day stuck at a desk and planted for hours.

New research suggests that such office jobs can increase risk of death -- despite a person's physical activity level.

In a study by the American Cancer Society of 123,000 adults followed over 14 years, people who sat more than six hours per day were at least 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours a day.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"I think what the study suggests is not about how much you move; it's about how much you don't move," said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

Time in the gym didn't matter, although the association was even stronger among those who did not exercise.

"Every so often, getting up, moving your body around, is probably beneficial above and beyond above the 30 or 45 minutes you may be working out most days of the week in the gym," Sanchez said.

A similar study from Australia released last month suggests that people who sit a long time without breaks are at higher risk for heart disease than those who take frequent time outs to stand and walk.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas tries to make it easier for employees to improve their health and has earned a Fit Friendly Company designation from the American Heart Association.

An employee cafeteria serves easy to recognize healthy options.

There's an on-site fitness center.

During breaks, employees lap the second floor of their Richardson building to get in some activity.

In addition, the business recently put eligible employees in a pilot program to get healthier.

"I lost 20 pounds in the 10-week program and lost another 15 pounds since program ended, so 35 pounds," said employee Michiel Arrington. "I've kept it off for a year and a half now."

The strain of work, though, whether at a desk or not, also puts women at higher risk of heart disease -- a whopping 40 percent risk for women in jobs with high demand and little control, according to the Dallas-based American Heart Association.

"The high-paced environment, the expectations, the deadlines, the things you have to meet in order to stay in your job, I think, creates a high level of stress that can indirectly lead to the development of heart disease," cardiologist Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla said.

"You have to make up for it by modifying other aspects of your life," Gudimetla said. "It's important to exercise, get regular checkups from your doctor, get your cholesterol checked, get your blood pressure checked, get your risk of diabetes checked. Being more aware, knowing your numbers, so to speak, is very important to trying to make up for the stress and strain of the work place."

Know Your Numbers is one aspect of the the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign.

It's focused on helping women of all ages be heart healthy.
 

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