People who have been laid off from their job have a lot of things to worry about, and the results of a 2006 study conducted by a group of epidemiologists at Yale University found that when older workers join the ranks of the unemployed, their risk of heart attack and serious stroke doubled. Chronic stress is to blame for the health issues, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices that can result when someone is faced with a layoff.
Stress resulting from a negative life event, such as a job loss, can trigger a heart attack in some people. Chemicals released into the body when it is under acute stress are to blame in that situation. Worry about financial issues in the short term and whether the individual will be able to find work again can cause the person to experience chest pain and other symptoms associated with a heart attack.
Smoking and Job Loss Related
A person who has recently lost his or her job may be more likely to smoke or to take up the habit again. They see this activity as a way to reduce stress, when the opposite is true. People who smoke report feeling more stressed out than non-smokers.
When people who try to quit smoking report feeling stressful, they may not realize that the jittery feelings they are experiencing are due to nicotine withdrawal. If they give in to the craving and light up again, they are getting a “hit” of nicotine and other chemicals that they need to feel normal. This doesn’t do anything to provide the smoker with relief from the stressors in his or her life, though.
Layoffs Lead to Poor Health Decisions
Unemployment, and the financial pressures associated with it, can also lead to other decisions that can affect heart health. If funds are limited, a person may be eating processed foods more often as a way to cut back on grocery bills, as opposed to choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats as part of their diet.
A gym membership may be canceled as a cost-cutting measure in times of unemployment. Getting regular exercise can be a great stress reliever. If keeping a gym membership is too costly when going through a job loss, then substitute going for a brisk walk instead or look into community fitness programs that may be available at a lower cost.