Long hours put workers at risk of irregular heartbeat

A long-hours culture can put staff at greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), or an irregular heartbeat, research has argued.

A study, published in the European Heart Journal, by a team of academics at University College London, has concluded that clocking up more than 55 hours a week means a 40% higher chance of developing AF.

The research team analysed data on the working patterns of 85,494 mainly middle-aged men and women from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

After 10 years, an average of 12.4 per 1,000 people had developed AF, but among those working 55 hours or more, this figure was higher at 17.6 per 1,000.

Those who worked the longest hours also tended to be more overweight, had higher blood pressure, smoked more and consumed more alcohol. But the conclusions about AF were weighted to take these factors into account.

However, lead researcher Professor Mika Kivimaki, from UCL’s Department of Epidemiology, told The Guardian: “For a healthy person, the risk of AF is very low, and a 1.4-fold increase in that small risk due to long working hours does not much change the situation.”

The finding follows research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) that up to 500,000 people could be unaware they have AF, dramatically increasing their risk of stroke.

Separately, the BHF has warned that as many as six in 10 patients living with inherited heart conditions face long delays before receiving a diagnosis, as their symptoms are often attributed to other conditions such as stress, anxiety and epilepsy.

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