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Long working hours can cause an irregular heart rhythm

People who work more than 55 hours a week are at risk of atrial fibrillation.

File photo
File photo
Image: Syda Productions via Shutterstock

WORKING LONG HOURS can increase your chance of developing an irregular heart rhythm, according to new research.

The research found that clocking up more than 55 hours of work a week can make people 40% more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation (AF).

This is compared to people who work a normal week of between 35-40 hours.

AF is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

It happens when the electrical signals controlling the heart’s normal beat lose co-ordination. People who have it can suffer from palpitations, weakness, dizziness and confusion.

The researchers from University College London analysed the work patterns of 85,494 people from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Participants were put into groups depending on their work hours – with 35-40 hours being considered standard – and monitored between 1991 and 2004.

During the 10-year follow-up period, there were 1,061 new recorded cases of AF.

Among those working over 55 hours a week, the figure was 17.6% higher per every 1000 people.

“These findings show that long working hours are associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia,” lead researcher Professor Mika Kivimaki said.

This could be one of the mechanisms that explain the previously observed increased risk of stroke among those working long hours.

He admitted that the research have some limitations, including the fact that working hours were only assessed once at the beginning of the study and that the type of job – for instance, whether it involved night shifts – wasn’t recorded.

“Obviously, monitoring of working hours over several years would be more ideal than a once off measurement at the start of the study,” he said.

“However, I do not think the results would have been dramatically different with repeat measurements of working hours because people tend to keep their working patterns.”

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