April 28 (UPI) -- Stress on the job may increase a person's risk for peripheral artery disease, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
People with work-related stress are 1.4 times as likely as those without it to be hospitalized with peripheral artery disease, according to the analysis of more than 135,000 working-age adults in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Britain.
"Our findings suggest that work-related stress may be a risk factor for peripheral artery disease in a similar way as it is for heart disease and stroke," study co-author Katriina Heikkilä, a senior researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in a press release.
PAD is a cardiovascular condition that affects more than 8.5 million people across the United States, according to the American Heart Association. It occurs when cholesterol or other fatty substances build up in the blood vessels away from the heart, typically in the legs, impeding blood flow.
Symptoms can include leg pain while walking and, if left untreated, PAD increases a person's risk for heart disease and stroke.
Work-related stress, or job strain, refers to psychological and social stress at work, often from high expectations from colleagues or employers combined with lower levels of personal control.
Earlier research has linked work-related stress to other forms of atherosclerotic disease, but not peripheral artery disease specifically, and stress, in general, is associated with increased inflammation and higher blood glucose levels.
Heikkilä and her colleagues evaluated data on more than 139,000 adults -- 36.4 percent of whom were men -- from 11 separate studies conducted between 1985 and 2008. On average, study participants ranged from 39 to 49 years of age, and had no prior history of peripheral artery disease when the research began.
The team analyzed hospitalization records as well as participants' responses to a questionnaire on work-related stress. Nearly one-fourth of participants with no previous hospitalization for peripheral artery disease reported work-related stress at the beginning of the 11 studies included in the analysis.
In all, 667 of the study participants were hospitalized for peripheral artery disease. In addition to stress, the researchers noted increased risk among men, those with high socioeconomic status and smokers, but noted such subgroup analysis was limited by the small number of people with peripheral artery disease.