In Unfit Men, Heavy Work May Increase Fatal Heart Disease Risk: Study

The results suggest that by maintaining good physical fitness, men who engage in heavy labor can avoid increased risk, and possibly even lower their risk of death from heart disease.

High physical work demands are linked to an increased risk of death from ischemic heart disease (IHD)—but only for men who aren’t physically fit, reports a study in the November Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

The increase in risk is not explained by the higher rates of heavy work and health risk factors among men at lower socioeconomic levels, concluded the new research, led by Andreas Holtermann, Ph.D., of Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen.

A previous study of 5,250 Danish men found an increased risk of death from IHD (such as heart attack) in men with high physical work demands and low physical fitness. However, social class was a potential confounding factor: men at lower socioeconomic levels are more likely to have jobs involving heavy work. They also have higher rates of lifestyle risk factors, such as smoking and obesity.

To address this question, the researchers analyzed 2,707 men in the lower socioeconomic levels. Thirty percent of men in this group had high physical work demands, compared to 3.5 percent for those at higher socioeconomic levels. The long-term risk of death from IHD was 14 percent for men in the lower social classes, compared to about nine percent in the higher social classes.

However, the main risk factor was not low socioeconomic status, but rather low physical fitness. Men with low fitness and high physical work demands were nearly three times more likely to die from IHD, compared to those with low work demands.

Among men who did heavy work, risk was about 40 percent lower for those with high physical fitness.

Thus socioeconomic factors don't seem to explain the link between heavy labor and IHD risk. “These observations indicate that physical fitness is a protector of or a risk modifier among men exposed to high physical loads on their cardiovascular system,” Holterman and co-authors wrote. The results suggest that by maintaining good physical fitness, men who engage in heavy labor can avoid increased risk, and possibly even lower their risk of death from heart disease.

Download Center

  • EHS Buyer's Guide

    Download this buyer's guide to make more informed decisions as you're looking for an EHS management software system for your organization.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • COVID Return-to-Work Checklist, Fall 2021

    Use this checklist as an aid to help your organization return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy manner.

  • SDS Buyer's Guide

    Learn to make informed decisions while searching for SDS Management Software.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Industry Safe

Featured Whitepapers

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2021

    September 2021

    Featuring:

    • COMBUSTIBLE DUST
      Managing Combustible Dust and Risk Mitigation
    • PPE: CONSTRUCTION
      The Rising Popularity of Safety Helmets on the Jobsite
    • PPE: ELECTRICAL SAFETY
      Five Tips for a Successful Wear Trial
    • SAFETY & HEALTH
      Medical Surveillance Versus Medical Screening
    View This Issue