Workaholics could face stroke risks similar to smokers

Workers who toil excessive overtime hours could be increasing their risk of stroke by as much as one-third, new research shows.

People who worked 55 hours or more per week were 13% more likely to develop heart disease than those with more regular 35- to 40-hour work weeks. A separate analysis of data from previous studies found that those who worked more than 55 hours a week were one-third more likely to suffer a stroke.

While researchers couldn't prove an exact cause for the increased stroke risk, they suggest physical inactivity, higher drinking rates and higher stress levels associated with workaholics may be to blame. One physician said he was “surprised” by the study's results.

"The risk is almost as bad as smoking, which increases the risk of stroke by about 50 percent," Stephan Mayer, M.D., director of neurocritical care at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, told HealthDay News.

“To my mind the most plausible explanation is chronic triggering of the stress response that comes with working long hours, pressure to perform and not enough time for family, loved ones and peaceful rest."

Researchers suggest that while working fewer hours may be the most obvious solution, it isn't always possible. Experts advise society's overall mindset towards overworking and physical activity need to change in order for workaholics to avoid the health consequences.