9 out of 10 of the cases of atrial fibrillation occurred in people who didn’t have any heart issues at the start of the study. This means the increased risk is likely to be the result of those long hours slaving over an Excel spreadsheet. Worst.
Scientists believe this could help explain why those who work long hours have been found to have a higher risk of stroke, too. “Atrial fibrillation is known to contribute to the development of stroke, but also other adverse health outcomes, such as heart failure and stroke-related dementia,” said lead researcher Professor Mika Kivimaki, from University College London.
Before you freak out about that all-nighter though, if you’re already hitting your health goals your risk is much smaller. The authors point out that the 40% increased extra risk is a worry if you’ve already got a high risk of cardiovascular disease – eg, you’re a smoker, not active or overweight. “For a healthy, young person, with few if any of these risk factors, the absolute increased risk of atrial fibrillation associated with long working hours is small.” Phew.
Regardless, if you can bump up your work/life balance, your heart will, err, heart you – even if your boss doesn’t.