Surviving Heart Attack Often Means Leaving Job Behind
Recovering from a heart attack can be a long, painful process, and now a new study finds that almost one-quarter of those patients who returned to work ultimately left their jobs over the following year.
The findings suggest that “even though patients return to work after a heart attack, they may still require individual adjustments at their workplaces in order to stay employed,” said study author Dr. Laerke Smedegaard Petersen. She is a graduate student at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.
An estimated 676,000 people in the United States survive heart attacks each year, according to the American Heart Association. Many survivors are of working age: The average age of heart attack is 65 for men and 72 for women, the association says.
The new study examined the medical and work records of over 22,000 patients in Denmark who were employed before suffering heart attacks between 1997 and 2012.
Of those, 91 percent returned to work within a year. But within a year of going back to work, 24 percent of the patients had left their jobs. That’s three times the normal rate of leaving a job, the researchers reported. It’s not clear, however, whether the heart attack survivors quit their jobs, or were fired or laid off.
Patients aged 30 to 39 and 60 to 65, and those who had heart failure, diabetes or depression, were especially likely to leave their jobs. Workers with higher incomes and more education were more likely to stay on the job, the findings showed.
Petersen said the percentage of heart attack patients who return to work and then leave their jobs may be even higher in the United States.
“In Denmark, all citizens have equal access to health care and all patients receive treatment free of charge,” she explained.
One U.S. expert said the findings are sobering.
“The study is an important reminder that recovery is often measured in months and years, not just weeks,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
“To understand the impact of a heart attack requires that we fully understand people’s roles and function. We should study how best to help people fully resume their prior activities and have the choice as to whether they want to continue working,” Krumholz explained.
Karina Davidson, executive director of Columbia University’s Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, said fatigue and an inability to perform manual labor are some of the reasons why heart attack survivors leave their jobs.
“Patients after a heart attack do indeed have a long road to recovery, and cardiac rehabilitation, strong family support and follow-up with their medical care are important components to ensure the best recovery possible,” she said. “Returning to work full-time will be realistic for some patients, but not for all.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr C Carney
Avoiding All Alcohol Helps the Heart Beat Better
The longer you refrain from drinking, the lower your risk of a common heart rhythm disorder.
That’s the message of a new long-range study examining alcohol use and atrial fibrillation, or Afib. This is when electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart are chaotic and cause an irregular heartbeat, which increases the risk of blood clots that can cause stroke or heart attacks.
One in four adults older than 40 is at risk for Afib, and nearly 6 million people in the United States could have the condition by 2050.
But the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that every decade of non-drinking decreased the risk of Afib by 20 percent, regardless of the type of alcohol.
Women who drink in any amount before conception and during pregnancy will cause a higher risk of problems for your infant.
The study included heart-risk data generated over 25 years on more than 15,000 American adults
Past drinkers were at increased risk for Afib, the researchers found. Every additional decade in which alcohol was consumed in the past was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of Afib, and every additional drink per day during former drinking was associated with a 4 percent increased risk.
“For a disease that affects millions and is one of the most important causes of stroke, identifying modifiable risk factors is especially important,” study senior author Dr. Gregory Marcus said in a UCSF news release. He directs clinical research at the university’s division of cardiology.
“Future research may help identify patients particularly prone to alcohol-related [Afib], and, when done, targeted counseling to those patients may be especially effective,” he added.
“Our finding suggests there may be chronic cardiac remodeling effects from alcohol that don’t rely on alcohol as an acute trigger, and further research into why this occurs is needed,” Marcus concluded.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr C Carney