WATERCOOLER: Is your job slowly killing you?

NEW research has revealed what many of us have long suspected - your job may be killing you.

Scientists at the US Public Health Service have uncovered the least healthy professions, with people working in sales, office support, service roles and the food industry faring the worst.

Studies show those aged over 45 are more likely to suffer heart disease and stroke if they work in sales, office support or service occupations, while four out of five office workers did not do enough physical activity.

According to the study, food industry workers had the worst diets, with 79 per cent regularly grazing on poor quality fare, while nine out of 10 police and firefighters (90 per cent) were overweight or obese.

Transport workers were the heaviest smokers out of all the occupation groups, with more than one in five (22 per cent) lighting up regularly.

Those in management or professional roles had better heart health than the rest, but 72 per cent of white collar workers in the finance and business sector had poor dietary habits.

Researchers looked at data from 5,566 employed men and women, who did not have a history of heart disease or stroke at the beginning of the study.



Scientists measured results against guidelines of modifiable risk factors outlined by the American Heart Association, and analysed workers weights, diets, smoking habits, and levels of physical activity.

While 88 per cent of workers aged 45 and older that took part in the study did not smoke, and 78 per cent had good blood sugar levels, fewer than 41 per cent had "ideal cardiovascular health".

Workers earned better scores if, without medicines, their blood pressure readings were lower than 120/80 mm Hg; total cholesterol was below 200 mg/dL; and/or blood glucose was lower than 100 mg/dL while fasting or 140 without fasting.

Non smokers with a body mass index (BMI) below 25, who took part in sweat-inducing physical activity four or more times per week, also earned a tick in the margin from researchers.

Lead researcher Captain Leslie MacDonald, senior scientist at the US Public Health Service, said "the lower the number of ideal cardiovascular risk factors, the easier it becomes to predict their future health ills, including premature death, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease."

MacDonald said it was difficult to earn ideal scores against all risk factors, and no profession gained perfect marks. She put this down to the strict criteria around diet, with workers needing to consuming 4.5 or more cups of fruits or veg daily, less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, 450 or fewer calories a week in sugary foods, and three or more servings of whole grains daily.

Researchers said stress was often a key reason why workers failed to prioritise their health, but small changes such as going for a walk during lunchbreaks and taking the stairs instead of the lift, all make a positive difference to overall health and wellbeing.

- nzherald.co.nz

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