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HealthWatch: Heart Disease And Work

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Long working hours are a part of life in the Big Apple, but according to a just-published study, those long days at work could be leading to a shorter lifespan, Dr. Max Gomez reports.

Dr. Robin Smith is the CEO of Neostem, a biotech company doing business all over the world. She can't remember the last time she worked an eight-hour day.

"I would say about 15 or 16 hours when you do international business. China wakes up when the U.S. goes to sleep, so it's around the clock. So work at home, absolutely. Always on the phone or on the computer," she said.

Those long hours may be driving her and many others closer to heart disease.  A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds people who routinely work 11 hours or more a day increase their chances of developing heart disease by 67 percent.

"It's the first time we've taken these longer working hours and quantified it,  combined it with an existing risk score," said Dr. Sumeet Chugh of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

The study followed more than 7,000 civil service workers for over a decade, adjusting for other risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking habits.

According to the Labor Department, the average American works about seven and a half hours a day - but they must not be talking to many New Yorkers.

Seems everyone in these parts, from doctors to construction workers, secretaries, cab drivers, all have to put in a lot more time every day.

Researchers didn't say why the longer hours seem to increase the risk of heart disease, but cardiologists have their suspicions.

"Could it be that when you're working longer hours you're subjected to more stress compared to when you're at home in a more comfortable environment?" Dr. Chugh surmised.

Despite the findings, Smith said she had no plans of slowing down.

"It's not going to change the way I work. Too many opportunities, too many things we need to do, it'll be the way it'll be, just keep on going," she said.

She did say she'll try to exercise more and eat better, which may compensate for those long hours.

Nearly half a million Americans died from coronary heart disease in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Every year about 785,000 Americans have their first heart attack.

Will you change your work habits after this study? Let us know below…

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