Published November 29, 2012
A new study out of Duke University found a surprising and important relationship between unemployment status, multiple job losses and periods without work and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
Factors included the first year after job loss, being unemployed, total number of job losses and total time spent unemployed – with the risk of heart attack being most significant in the first year after job loss.
While you may not have complete control over your job stability, you can take preventative measures against a heart attack.
The American Heart Association promotes the ABC’s of prevention: A: avoid tobacco, B: become more active and C: choose good nutrition. Other factors to consider include maintaining a healthy blood pressure (aim for less than 120/80 mmHg), maintaining healthy cholesterol levels (less than 200mg/dL), maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake and closely monitoring and controlling your diabetes.
While these preventative measures are well established, the study further evaluated the symptoms of depression and anxiety resulting from unemployment as risk factors for a heart attack and found that they are very comparable. In other words, well-known risk factors including diabetes, smoking and hypertension are comparable to job loss in terms of increasing one’s risk of heart attack.
Unfortunately, the loss of a job can also mean a loss of health insurance, decreased physical activity, increased stress and anxiety, decreased sleep or even poor food choices. It’s hard to tell how much of a role each of these factors play in the risk of a heart attack; but it’s evident that a combination of these factors can be deadly.
The study proved that it is more important than ever to take care of yourself and be cognizant of your health status, especially in the first year following a job loss or if you experienced four or more job losses. Don’t compound your job loss with a heart attack.
Be honest with your physician about your employment status and job history – including number of job losses and amount of time unemployed – so he or she can better evaluate your risk for a heart attack.
Prevention is the best medicine, but if it does happen to you, it’s important that you recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, because the sooner you seek medical help, the better the outcome.
Most heart attacks begin slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Men and women can experience different symptoms; but the most common symptom in both sexes is chest pain or discomfort, like pressure, squeezing or fullness in the center of the chest. Other upper body discomfort can occur in the arms, back, neck or jaw. Shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea and lightheadedness are other hallmark signs of a heart attack.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry; if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, speak with your doctor or visit the closest emergency room.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.