Poor sleep, stress most damaging to people with common health issue

Chronic stress and poor sleep quality are known to have negative effects on both short-term and long-term health, but a new study reveals that they're more serious for people who have a certain common health issue: high blood pressure. Combining the three issues results in a much higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a new study, which warns that failing to address these conditions may result in major damage to one's long-term health.

The study was recently published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology. According to the researchers, stressed workers who experience poor sleep quality and who have high blood pressure face three times greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to people who face similar life issues, but who are not hypertensive.

That's bad news in light of the 'stress epidemic' facing modern workers, who increasingly cite low wages and poor advancement opportunities as contributing to their sense of job-related stress. In addition, one-third of working adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and poor sleep quality is often linked to stress. The three combined may be a deadly mixture.

The study evaluated 1,959 people ages 25 to 65 who had high blood pressure and who worked jobs. These participants did not have diabetes or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. When these participants were compared to people who got restful sleep every night and who did not experience work-related stress, the study found that these hypertensive workers had a three-times greater risk of dying from CVD.

All three risk factors combined present the greatest risk, but there's still increase risk associated with only two factors. Hypertensive participants who got restful sleep, but who experienced work-related stress, had a 1.6 times increase in risk; people with only poor sleep and high blood pressure had a 1.8 times greater risk. The study had an 18-year follow-up period, ultimately finding that the risk of CVD-related death increased with each condition added into the mixture.

Stress management, in addition to controlling high blood pressure, is an important factor in promoting health. Methods to improve these issues include weight loss, exercise, meditation, deliberate relaxation activities, developing coping strategies, improving social support and relationships, and quitting cigarettes.