~ Work Less, Live Longer

United Press International, 08-22-05

Aug 19, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The three-step formula for a long and happy life was revealed this week. Don't work overtime. If you're a woman, lose 10 pounds by the time you turn 30. And get heart surgery at age 80 whether you need it or not.

We're overstating the case, of course, but sometimes research does offer stark, simply stated insights into what works and what doesn't when it comes to human health.

Case 1: Overtime and long hours appear to correlate with injuries and illnesses on the job.

While that makes obvious sense, what's surprising is the type of work has nothing to do with it. Apparently, a pencil-pusher working overtime is likelier to end up unwell than a long-haul driver who keeps to regular hours.

The study, in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that employees who worked overtime were 61 percent likelier to sustain a work-related injury or illness.

The researchers analyzed the responses of nearly 11,000 people to the annual National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The survey included questions about employment history, work schedules and sick leave, covering the period between 1987 and 2000.

In total, 110,236 job records were analyzed and 5,139 work related injuries and illnesses were noted, with more than half occurring in jobs requiring extended working hours or overtime.

Case 2: Women who carry a breast-cancer gene can significantly lower their risk of contracting the disease if they lose just 10 pounds between the age of 18 and 30, researchers said. Gaining 10 pounds before the age of 40 had the opposite effect.

"This study highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight throughout adult life for women who have inherited an increased risk of breast cancer due to faults in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes," Dr. Kat Arney, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, told the BBC.

"Maintaining a healthy weight is also one of the best ways for everyone to reduce their chances of getting cancer," she added.

Case 3: If you make it to old age, the next logical step is getting heart surgery.

That's the somewhat perverse implication of a study in the British Medical Journal "Heart," which found that those undergoing such surgery outlive their peers.

The more practical conclusion: Physicians should not fear operating on 80 year olds, since most of those who had the procedure were still alive five years later and had half the risk of death of their general-population peers.

The findings were based on 12,461 English patients, 706 of whom were more than 80 years of age at the time of surgery. All underwent the surgery between 1996 and 2003.

Other health notes this week: The brain perceives odors differently depending on whether they arrive through the nose or the mouth. The study appears in the journal Neuron. ... Researchers report the loss of a gene called p63 accelerates aging in mice, with similar genes present in many organisms, including humans. In previous studies, Alea Mills of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory found mice born with only one copy of the gene die at a young age. ... Heart-attack patient treatment in the United States varies according to gender and race, despite efforts to eliminate such disparities. Researchers from Emory University, in collaboration with Yale University and other centers, found a consistent pattern of less intensive treatment offered to women and black heart-attack patients.

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