Work-related stress could be dangerous for our cholesterol

stressedIf you are sitting down to read this whilst in a job you hate – now may be the time to reach for that stress ball.

According to Spanish researchers, stress at the workplace cam change the way our body processes fat, increase ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels, which then raises the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke.  This disorder that causes the levels of fats and lipoproteins in the blood to be altered is known as ‘dyslipidemia’.

Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, the study was conducted by researchers from Ibermutuamur – a mutual insurance company specialising in work-related accidents and occupational illnesses – working with experts from the Virgen de la Victoria Hospital at Malaga and the Santiago de Compostela University.

There has long been an established connection between stressful jobs and an increased risk of coronary disease. Reasons for this are believed to be that stress makes us more likely to eat more unhealthy foods, smoke and drink alcohol.

In addition, data emanating from previous studies have suggested that stress could have an impact of levels of lipids in the blood by hindering the body’s metabolism. Unfortunately these studies included a relatively low sample size and sometimes demonstrated mixed results.

A strength of the study conducted in Spain is the fact it comprised of over 90,000 people. Ibermutuamur have annual medical check-ups and an incredible 430,000 people were assessed between 2005 and 2007 alone. Of these, a study questionnaire was distributed to over 100,000 randomly selected individuals and 91,593 responded. Participants were asked: “During the last year, have you frequently felt that you cannot cope with your usual job?” Those who replied ‘yes’ were deemed to have stress at work.

There were also 11 questions regarding any possible anxiety and depression symptoms, for example: “Have you felt keyed up, on edge?” and “Have you had difficulty relaxing?”

However, and somewhat strangely, diet was not taken into account in the questionnaire. Having a diet high in saturated fat can affect cholesterol levels. Some of the foods particularly bad in this aspect include: hard cheese, cream, lard, butter, cakes, biscuits, and sausages. It may well be that stress at the workplace leads people to opting for foods which are poor nutritionally and it is their diet responsible for an increase in bad cholesterol, and not the stress itself.

Nonetheless, the results from the study are intriguing and perhaps should encourage employers to try and minimise stress for their employees and create a positive work environment. In addition, Medical Specialists Pharmacy urge all readers to take a look at our article published last year for National Cholesterol Week in which we offered many tips to improve heart health and avoid high cholesterol.

Carlos Catalina, clinical psychologist and an expert in work-related stress at Ibermutuamur, said in a statement: “The workers who stated that they had experienced difficulties in dealing with their job during the previous 12 months – 8.7 percent – had a higher risk of suffering from dyslipidemia – a lipoproteins’ metabolic disorder that can manifest itself in an increase in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, the ‘bad,’ cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in addition to a drop in high-density lipoproteins, the ‘good’ cholesterol. One of the mechanisms that could explain the relationship between stress and cardiovascular risk could be the changes in our lipid profile, which means higher rates of atheromatous plaque accumulation of the arteries.”

If you want to improve your cholesterol levels, Medical Specialists Pharmacy can help. ‘Crestor’ (Rosuvastatin) and ‘Lipitor’ (Atorvastatin) are prescription-only treatments that belong to a group of cholesterol-lowering medicines called statins. Along with a healthy low-fat diet, they lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL-C), increase ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL-C), as well as slowing the progression of atherosclerosis in adults with high cholesterol. We are pleased to inform our patients that we also offer legal generic Atorvastatin, with prices from as little as just £11.25 per pack.

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