A remarkable finding, that more heart attacks happen on Monday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 12 noon, than any other time of the week. Also, this clustering of heart attacks is unique to humans, and is not found in any other animal. Scientists theorize that it is not linked to biorhythms, but is due to the psychological meaning of Monday morning, that happens to many people, after having the weekend off. Monday morning, is often the most stressful time of the week, because of its meaning- returning a job of at best, minimal, if any satisfaction for millions of people. 


Unfortunately, according to the latest survey conducted by TNS for the Conference Board, and released earlier this month, only 45 per cent of those surveyed are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 per cent in 1987. Americans of all ages and income brackets continue to grow increasingly unhappy at work-a long-term trend that should be a red flag to employers.


“While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. “Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend.”


Fewer Americans are satisfied with all aspects of their employment, and no age or income group is immune. In fact, the youngest employee sector, comprised of those younger than 25, had the highest levels of job dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.


“The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity,” adds Franco. And, in my opinion does not bode well for their health as well.


I’d been in practice for about a year when one day, while running errands, I crossed the path of a patient’s granddaughter. This patient had numerous medical problems including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (hypertension). In response to my question, as to how her grandmother was doing, she quickly replied, “Grandma’s fine. She only gets sick when she gets upset.” That keen observation struck me as a tremendous revelation. It made me wonder, how true that observation was for other people facing chronic illnesses.


Around the same time, a University of Chicago researcher, Dr. Susan Kobialka, followed AT&T executives during its national restructuring. It was an extremely stressful time for so many executives, as the number of heart attacks skyrocketed, to the point that a coronary care unit was created at Illinois Bell’s corporate headquarters. But within this group of execs, there were those who thrived in the face of severe adversity. While they were similar with respect to age and ethnicity, they held a different perspective, compared to their counterparts experiencing heart attacks. They possessed a commitment to their job, an amazing sense of challenge and excitement in response to adversity, as well as a critical perception of self-control.


One of the most fascinating long-term studies I’ve discovered, which prompted me to reconsider my emphasis on diet and other physical risk factors, was conducted by Stewart Wolf, M.D., in Roseto, Pennsylvania. Early in the 1960s, this small town became well-known to the national medical community-the residents were experiencing a very low incidence of heart disease despite the fact that they smoked, ate, and drank alcohol, in typical American measure. The researchers sought to explain this unusual phenomenon and concluded that the supportive, interactive, and close-knit nature of the town’s primarily Italian-American population created this “immunity” to heart disease.


Dr. Wolf believed that their rate of heart disease would increase in the 1970s, since many residents were first-generation Italian American families, as they lost their traditional ways and became more “Americanized.” When they returned a decade later during the mid 1970s, his prediction proved true. And twenty years after the initial visit, they returned in the 1980s, anticipating a lower level of heart disease, reflective of the national cholesterol reduction education initiative. Despite many of the residents’ efforts to lower their cholesterol levels, stop smoking and exercise more, their heart disease rate continued to increase. The researchers determined that their way of life, their focus on materialism and “conspicuous consumption” blocked the anticipated decline of their heart disease rate.


One of the most significant bodies of research, conducted by Dr. George Kaplan, M.D., of the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, followed thousands of residents of Alameda County, California, for several years. They found social isolation to be a significant risk factor for all diseases including heart disease. Researchers around the globe have confirmed a link between the lack of social support and the development of heart disease in humans and animals.


In Yugoslavia, researchers concluded that psychosocial variables are important predictors of death and decisively modify the effect of physical risk factors such as smoking.


The traditional Japanese culture is hallmarked by a considerable degree of family and social support. Evidence suggests this is a contributor to the low incidence of heart disease in that country, as well as Japanese-Americans, who like the residents of Roseto, maintain their tradition. In 1993, a study found that patients recovering from heart attacks with higher levels of emotional support were far less likely to die within 6 months, compared to those with much less support.


These studies and others like them have contributed significantly to our understanding and appreciation of the role our significant relationships play in our health and well-being.


Source:  Beyond Cholesterol by Elaine R. Ferguson, MD