This Everyday Habit Can Double Your Heart Disease Risk, Study Says

Researchers say this is an "often overlooked cardiovascular risk factor."

There are a number of factors that are known to raise your risk of developing heart disease, from eating too much salt to drinking too much alcohol. But that's just scratching the surface. With heart disease still the leading cause of death in the U.S., it's important to be aware of all of the risks, not just the biggies. With that in mind, researchers for one recent study say they uncovered an "often overlooked cardiovascular risk factor" that many people do every single day. Read on to find out which daily habit could be putting your heart in danger.

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Standing too much at work can double your risk for heart disease.

waitress wearing protective face mask while taking order from customer on a touchpad in a cafe.

We've often been told that sitting too much can endanger our hearts, but standing too much has risks as well, according to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The researchers for this study analyzed more than 7,300 employed people enrolled in the Canadian Community Health Survey over the course of 12 years, who worked at least 15 hours a week and did not have heart disease at the start of the study. Researchers concluded that those who worked jobs that predominantly required them to stand were twice as likely to develop heart disease over the study period than those who mostly sat during work.

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This is because standing all day makes it harder for your heart to work.

Studio shot of a group of unrecognisable businesspeople standing in line against a grey background

The researchers say blood pooling in your lower limbs, increased vein pressure, and enhanced oxidative stress are the three main reasons why standing too much can result in people developing heart disease. "When you're standing for a prolonged period of time, the blood tends to pool in your legs, and it's hard for your heart to pump that blood back up to the top of your body," study lead author Peter Smith, PhD, a senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, said in a statement.

According to Smith, if your heart is having trouble pumping blood back up to the top of your body, this can increase pressure in the veins. And over time, these problems work together to raise your risk of heart disease.

The researchers say standing is "often overlooked" as a risk factor for heart disease.

cashier working at a supermarket wearing a facemask during the COVID-19 pandemic

At the end of the study, the researchers found that the incidence of heart disease among workers who stood a lot was similar to that of those who used nicotine on a daily basis or had obesity—two well-known cardiovascular disease risk factors. "Occupations that involve primarily standing represent an important, but often overlooked, cardiovascular risk factor," the researchers stated in the study.

With many occupations—like cashiers, bank tellers, and waiters—requiring workers to stand more than eight hours a day, Smith says his study shows changes may need to be made, especially since there's often a public perception that these workers are not working as hard if they're not standing.

"If we can recognize that standing for a long period of time is just as bad for you, if not potentially worse, than sitting for a long period of time, maybe we should reconsider whether it's worthwhile as a society to force certain occupations to stand for long periods of time," Smith told Today.

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But this doesn't mean sitting all day is good for your heart health either.

digital artist at his home studio taking a coffee break.

Of course, changing jobs to allow workers to sit all day is not the right move. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), too much sedentary time can still increase your risk of heart disease, as well as diabetes and death. Smith says the ability to change between sitting and standing during work is the answer.

"If you're in an environment where you're able to change body positions throughout the day, that's positive," Smith told Today. If your job requires you to stand, sit down when you're feeling tired, and if it requires you to sit, perhaps invest in a standing desk.

But Smith does warn that standing every once in a while isn't enough to offset an overall sedentary lifestyle. "The true opposite of sitting is actually to be more active; it's not to stand," Smith explained.

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