Working hard can severely tax the heart

June 27th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 27 (IANS) Working hard can severely tax one’s health in general and cardiovascular system in particular, if carried to the point of exhaustion. When fatigued persons perceive a task as worthwhile, they double their effort in order to make up for diminished capability, says a new study.

Consequently, blood pressure tends to stay elevated until the task is completed or individuals give up thinking success is quite beyond them.

Exhausted people had larger blood pressure increases than rested individuals under conditions where they viewed success as both possible and worthwhile.

Investigators believe the effects were determined by effort of the participants, said psychologist Rex Wright of the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), who led the study.

“Our findings are relevant… because of links… established between cardiovascular responsiveness and negative health outcomes, including hypertension and heart disease,” said Wright.

“Individuals who experience chronically exaggerated cardiovascular responses are believed to be at greater health risk than individuals who do not.”

In the study, 80 subjects were offered the chance to win a modest prize by memorising, in two minutes, two or six nonsense trigrams. Trigrams are meaningless, three-letter sequences, such as AED.

Data indicated that subjects who reported moderate fatigue had stronger blood pressure increases than subjects who reported low fatigue in the two-trigram condition.

“Presumably this was because the moderately fatigued subjects viewed success as relatively hard, but still possible and worthwhile,” Wright said.

“Subjects who reported moderate fatigue had relatively reduced blood pressure increases in the six-trigram condition, presumably because they viewed success there as impossible or too difficult to be worth the effort.”

“It might be argued that fatigue is of little concern from a health standpoint because people will tend to withdraw effort once they become fatigued,” Wright said.

“The problem with this view is that it fails to recognise that people do not always have the luxury of withdrawing effort or perhaps the wisdom to do so.”

“Consider, for example, a single parent with a small child who must maintain his performance level at work despite extreme and persistent fatigue.”

“Or the upwardly mobile administrator who sets increasingly difficult performance goals for herself despite the chronic fatigue that she experiences as a result of poor nutrition and sleep habits,” Wright said, reports EurekAlert.

The research has been published in the July issue of The International Journal of Psychophysiology.

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