Stress management easy on the heart

Jan. 8, 2007 at 6:26 PM
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DALLAS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Stress-management programs appear effective in reducing unhealthy impacts on a worker's heart, Italian researchers said Monday.

After the yearlong program, workers scored significantly lower on tests that measured stress, and doctors observed improvements in heart-rate variability and blood pressure among the patients who participated in the courses. Moreover, workers said they felt less tired than they did before the stress-management training.

"We were able to achieve these results in a working environment, without impinging on productivity, and with zero cost to the company," said Massimo Pagani, professor of medicine at the University of Milan in Italy.

Reporting in the rapid-access edition of Circulation, the journal of the Dallas-based American Heart Association, Pagani said job-related stress is one of several factors that may increase the risk of heart attack. So by addressing stress "at work, where stress occurs, rather than in a clinic, we may be able to prevent these workers from becoming patients," Pagani said.

Researchers recruited 91 office workers at a DuPont subsidiary in Italy that was downsizing its workforce by 10 percent. All of the volunteers said they were experiencing work-related stress.

The stressed workers were compared to a control group of 79 healthy volunteers who worked outside of the company and reported no work-related stress.

At their initial assessment the workers were offered the opportunity to participate in weekly, one-hour stress-management sessions during lunch breaks or in a passive program that offered articles and monthly e-mails on stress-reduction techniques.

Twenty-six of the 91 stressed employees signed up for the stress-management sessions and 25 signed up for the passive stress-management program. Their baseline measurements were similar, but after a year those in the active stress-management program showed improvement their scores.

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