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Don’t Blame Your Boss for Hypertension

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Don’t Blame Your Boss for Hypertension

Don’t Blame Your Boss for Hypertension

June 29, 2006

By Shelagh McNally for Veins1

It turns out that a heavy workload and a nasty boss don’t actually contribute to high blood pressure. A new study published in the May issue of Current Hypertension Reviews has found there is little evidence that the workplace leads to hypertension.

Take Action
Control Hypertension
  • Lose weight. Being overweight can create hypertension.
  • Stop smoking. Tobacco is a leading cause for high blood pressure.
  • Regular exercise helps to control blood pressure.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables but low in fat.
  • Watch the sodium. Cut back on fried and salty foods.
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Relax. Meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques can help you stay cool.

  • “It's been a cherished notion that chronic stress – in this case, job stress – contributes to hypertension. It's time to set the record straight, however,” commented Dr. Samuel Mann author of the report and a hypertension specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

    Dr. Mann became curious when he didn’t see any connection after reading a rigorous hypertension study published in 2003 by a team of French researchers in the well-respected Hypertension journal. Mann then went on to analyze data from 48 studies done between 1982 and 2004 in which more than 100,000 people were studied. He discovered that very few of the studies found any relationship between job stress and hypertension at all and that instead most had a “weak and inconsistent” connection.

    Mann believes that this myth of bad work making our hypertension skyrocket may actually have dire consequences for patients – particularly if the doctor is recommending quitting or changing jobs. Other flaws found by Mann included researchers who focused solely on measuring only the blood pressure at the workplace rather than in the overall environment. Mann also looked at the potential remedies offered and found most were ineffective in lowering blood pressure in the workplace suggesting that job stress wasn’t the main cause of hypertension. "Reliable studies have shown that ongoing difficulties at work can contribute to coronary artery disease,” he said. “That appears to be true, but blood pressure does not seem to be the link between the two.”

    Another huge flaw Mann noted was that some of these studies showed a bottom reading in blood pressure (the diastolic blood pressure) but not the top number (the systolic pressure). “This is all very odd, since clinicians know that systolic pressure varies more widely than diastolic pressure. It's also a more reliable marker of cardiovascular risk compared to diastolic readings,” Dr. Mann says. “The omission of systolic pressure in those studies' data is troubling.”

    Mann did comment that clashes with co-workers or supervisors can boost blood pressure temporarily but there are not lasting effects. There are actually more coronary attacks than high blood pressure attacks at the office, so why does the idea persist that work makes you develop hypertension? “There is no doubt that stress can elevate blood pressure in the moment. But the corollary that recurring stress leads to sustained blood pressure elevation has not been demonstrated, despite decades of research that aimed to prove it. It's hard not to think that many researchers — for a variety of reasons — have a vested interest in keeping this notion alive, and that they publish articles that strain to support their view,” Dr. Mann says.

    Whether it’s influenced by your boss or not, you should get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Nearly 50 million Americans have high blood pressure and when untreated, it can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, eye damage, congestive heart failure and fatty buildups in arteries called atherosclerotic plaques. High blood pressure also hurts arteries and arterioles, (small arteries that connect larger arteries to the tiny capillaries).

    While there are often no symptoms, high blood pressure can cause headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and low libido. Scientists don't know the exact causes of high blood pressure but at least you know it’s not your disagreeable boss.

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