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Avoiding Conflict At Work Increases Risk Of Heart Attack

November 24, 2009

Men who suppress their frustrations about their work situations may be at an increased risk of heart attack, Swedish researchers reported Tuesday.

“Covert coping is strongly related to increased risk of hard-endpoint cardiovascular disease,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers at the Stress Research Unit at Stockholm University studied more than 2,700 male participants with an average age of 41 at the start of the study. Prior to the study, none of the men had suffered a heart attack when the study began in 1992.

By 2003, researchers noted that 47 participants had suffered a heart attack or died from heart disease.

Men were asked to describe their methods of dealing with conflict in the workplace with their bosses or fellow employees.

Researchers said that men who openly dealt with their workplace conflicts by speaking up were less prone to heart attacks.

Meanwhile, those who bottled up their aggression about conflict by not saying anything, were more likely to develop symptoms of headache or stomach ache.

“There has been research before pointing in this direction but the surprise is that the association between pent-up anger and heart disease was such a strong one,” said study leader Dr Constanze Leineweber.

“I think men can’t help how they behave in conflict situations – it’s not something they think about, it’s just how they react instinctively.”

Men were monitored for smoking, physical activity, education, diabetes and drinking. Researchers evaluated the blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels.

“We all find different things stressful and symptoms of stress can vary,” said Judy O’Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation.

“But the important thing is that we need to find ways of coping with it in our lives in a positive way, whether at work or home,” she said.

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