Unemployment's toll can be heartbreaking

April 11, 2013 by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter
Unemployment's toll can be heartbreaking
Resulting stress, anxiety, bad habits may lead to cardiovascular trouble.

(HealthDay)—As anyone who's lost a job can attest, stress and worry often quickly follow. But the health of your heart after unemployment can also take a tumble.

can cause immediate issues, and the and bad habits that frequently come with unemployment can build up over time, causing cardiovascular damage, health experts say.

In some people, especially those who might not be expecting the job loss or those with significant financial obligations, getting fired may cause a condition called broken heart syndrome. "In a very stressful situation, you can actually get a severe release of adrenaline and sympathetic nerve discharges that cause the heart to beat irregularly," said Dr. John Higgins, a sports cardiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

These changes can actually cause a heart attack in some people, though Higgins said that most people who have significant stress reactions return to normal over time without having a heart attack.

Long-term changes that happen after a job loss—such as , family problems, loss of daily routine and sometimes higher-, like increased alcohol use or a —can cause heart problems to develop over time, Higgins explained.

Psychological factors can play a role, too.

"Most of us know the common , like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and genetics, but about 25 to 35 percent of heart disease remains unexplained," said Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan, director of at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. " likely play a role in these unexplained cases. More and more studies have been looking at stress, anger, sudden stress and major life changes like losing a job, and all of these can have a major effect on cardiovascular events," she said.

One recent study, published Nov. 19 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the risk for heart attack increased significantly for middle-aged to elderly people when they were unemployed. The researchers also found that the risks increased incrementally with each subsequent job loss.

Losing a job, however, doesn't mean automatic heart problems, especially if you take steps to protect your heart's health.

"Decreasing stress hormones is important," Chinnaiyan said. "We know from studies that behaviors such as meditation, yoga and tai chi work specifically to reduce our response to stress."

Meditation, one of Chinnaiyan's favorite ways to reduce stress, "can help in multiple ways," she said. "It helps you see your choices and have a clearer perspective of what to do next. Stress may still be around us, but meditation gives us a better ability to cope with it." Yoga can also be quite helpful in decreasing stress-related hormones, she added.

Higgins noted that it's crucial to keep up a regular exercise routine. He recommends exercising 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. "This helps reduce cardiac risk factors and depression," he said. But, if someone has significant clinical depression, exercise won't be enough, he noted, adding that it's then important to see a mental health professional.

He also recommends body muscle relaxation exercises. "Lie down and go through each muscle group in your body, progressively relaxing the muscles as you go," Higgins said. He noted that a variety of CDs and programs available on the Internet offer detailed instruction on relaxation exercises.

For some people, Higgins said, job loss support groups can also be helpful.

But what's most important, he said, is to remember that "while it's bad, you could be worse off."

As Higgins said: "One of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill applies here: 'When you're going through hell, keep going.'"

Explore further: Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

More information: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on what you can do to prevent heart disease.

To read about one man's story of dealing with the stress of job loss click here.

Related Stories

Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

February 2, 2012
In the past, suffering from a broken heart was simply a way to describe the emotional pain one felt when dealing with a personal misfortune—a breakup or even the death of a loved one.  

Is there really such a thing as a broken heart?

February 8, 2012
On Valentine's Day, people who have been unlucky in love are sometimes said to suffering from a "broken heart."

Heart ultrasound helps determine risk of heart attack, death in HIV patients

July 12, 2011
An ultrasound test can tell if people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and heart disease are at risk of heart attack or death, according to new research reported in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, an American ...

Meditation may reduce death, heart attack and stroke in heart patients

November 13, 2012
African Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from all causes compared with African Americans who attended a health ...

Risk of heart attack death may increase after adult sibling's death

February 27, 2013
Your risk of dying from a heart attack may increase after your adult sibling dies, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.