Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in Australia. As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics,  in 2013 alone, they accounted for 20,000 deaths. Heart diseases include angina, blocked arteries and heart attacks any of which could lead to a sudden cardiac arrest. A study of patients of sudden cardiac arrest found that heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) was the most common underlying mechanism of a cardiac arrest.

A breakdown by sex, of the deaths caused by heart diseases, shows that coronary heart diseases are the primary cause of death for both males and females. Neither sex can afford to take it easy on this count.

An analysis by age shows that heart diseases start to become a significant cause above the age of 25 but for all age groups people above the age of 45, they account for more deaths than any other cause.

Stay safe. Ensure you have access to a defibrillator at your workplace which can be reached within minutes if not seconds. A well located, easy to use, properly maintained AED can help save lives in your workplace. Have you ensured that yet? If not, call Alsco immediately.

It is interesting to note that heart diseases start to become a significant cause of death for people above the age group of 25. This is also the age when people start to work and the participation of people in the workforce peaks. It is almost a given that a person of this age group would be employed and working in some form or the other and contributing.

So, could there be a causal relationship between work and hear diseases? Well, that is not true. There are many other factors which play a significant role in determining whether a person is prone to heart diseases or not. At the same time work related factors can not be totally ignored. There are many important factors in the workplace which could be the cause of heart related problems.

In this article we look at some of these factors and try and understand how they are ultimately related to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Toxins at the Workplace

Several chemicals are considered to be a direct cause of heart attacks.

  • Carbon disulphide is a gas found mainly in industrial plants producing rayon, cellophane, etc. Studies have shown that people working in these plants have a significantly higher mortality rate due to heart related conditions.
  • Carbon monoxide, which is found in the exhaust of vehicles, is another toxin which causes higher rates of mortality amongst people engaged in jobs related to roads, tunnels etc. where exposure to motor exhaust is high.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Passive smoking is another known silent giant killer. Breathing other people’s cigarette smoke enhances your chances of lung cancer as well as heart disease. Workplaces should take care to ensure that there are separate rooms for smokers with proper exhaust facilities to ensure that harmful cigarette smoke does not spread to affect other workers.

Shift Work

Working in shifts, particularly in the night shift, often results in lack of sleep. The body requires a certain minimum amount of sleep in order to rejuvenate itself and work properly the next day. Failure to get the required amount of sleep can result in tiredness, difficulty to concentrate which may result in errors or accidents and ultimately build up of stress.

Moreover, the body’s own circadian clock gets disturbed affecting the performance of the heart. Other factors such as changes in behaviour and social patterns may also cause a person working in shift to be at greater risk of a sudden cardiac arrest.


Stress at work has risen over the last few years. A survey done by Princeton Survey Research Associates  found that 3 out of every 4 workers believe that stress in work now is more than what it was a generation ago.

The CDC defines stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Stress at work is caused by many job conditions which the individual worker is unable to cope or deal with adequately. Job conditions that may lead to stress are

  • The nature and design of tasks – this happens when there is either an overload of work, too many roles to perform at the same time, with infrequent breaks or even if there are routine tasks to be performed which do not utilise the workers’ skills, leading to a sense of lack of control on the job and frustration.
  • Poor leadership and management – Typically caused when there is a lack of participation in the decision making process or of family friendly policies.
  • Job insecurity or lack of growth opportunities – These lead to concerns about career and job.
  • Environmental concerns – Working under dangerous physical conditions like too much of heat, noise or sitting in poor conditions can trigger stress.

Stress, particularly constant stress is a known risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress causes the body to release hormones in order to activate its survival mechanisms. Blood pressure is raised and there are changes in the way the blood clots in the human body which increase the likely hood of heart attacks.

Further, the ways in which people deal with stress may further enhance the possibility of heart attacks. If people take to smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating or not exercising, then that makes matters worse.

Workplace Lunches

Workplace food choices can be disastrous for the heart. The food could be wrong on many counts.

  • Large portion sizes.
  • High levels of sodium, sugar and fat.
  • Use of high fat meats such as bacon, pepperoni, meatballs rather than low fat ones like ham, chicken, turkey.
  • Choice of cooking techniques – Larger quantities of food more often tend to be made in plenty of oil (breaded, buttered, tempura, fried, etc.) rather than being being baked, barbecued, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed.
  • The use of heavy cream or cheese based sauces such as mayonnaise, hollandaise, Alfredo etc.
  • The easy availability of high sugar content drinks like fizzy soft drinks, fruit flavoured carbonated beverages or even milkshakes rather than fresh fruit juices.
  • Lack of availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to snack upon when hunger strikes, such as baby carrots, apples, yoghurt, nuts.

All these factors combined have caused heart related diseases to become the number one cause of death in Australia. Given the dire implications, workplaces and employers need to work towards developing healthy heart plans at their worksites. A few things which they can do are

  • Provide healthy foods and beverages at workplaces, including in lunchrooms, cafes and vending machines.
  • Providing access to exercise facilities at subsidised rates either onsite or close to the office.
  • Encourage employees to use stairs often.
  • Provide free or subsidised health checkups regularly, including checking for cholesterol screening.
  • Offer access to a recognised training course on first aid which includes cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Last, but certainly not the least, easy access to AEDs at workplaces since people spend 40 hours a week at their workplace.

Join the healthy heart movement today. Make your workplace heart friendly with these simple tips.

Ensure that you always have a fully functional defibrillator that can be easily accessed whenever required. The Heartsine 500P AED from Alsco is more than just a defibrillator. It is easy to use, gives assists during the CPR process via vocal prompts and helps saves lives at a convenient low monthly cost. To know more about the advantages of the Heartsine 500P, simply give our friendly experts a call.


Photo Credit: Lisa L Wiedermeier