by Kate Pieroudis, Back to Work Project Manager, Stroke Association
We all know working overtime can be tough. It could threaten your health too – a recent study suggests that working more than a 35-40 hour work-week also increases your risk of stroke. Scientists from University College London have found that working 55 hours or more a week is linked to a significantly higher risk of stroke – 33% – compared to working standard hours.
We can’t definitely establish what causes the link between working long hours and stroke, but taking regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce your risk. High blood pressure is the biggest controllable risk factor for stroke, so it is worth getting regular blood pressure checks. If you’re at all concerned about your stroke risk you should make an appointment with your GP or health professional.
You may think that you are too young to worry about stroke. Sadly stroke is not a condition that only affects older people; it can happen at any age. At the Stroke Association, we are only too aware that working people should take their stroke risk seriously; a quarter of strokes happen to people under 75 and the number of working age people admitted to hospital for stroke has gone up 25% in the last 15 years.
A stroke can be devastating at any age, but if you are someone who is used to having a job or whose job is a large part of your identity, being unable to work can have a very big impact on your mental wellbeing, your family and your finances. More than half of survivors are left with a disability. Sometimes the effects can be so severe that a return to work isn’t possible but many stroke survivors do return with the right support. Other options include volunteering to build skills and confidence following a stroke or re-training in a new field.
Successfully re-entering the workplace after a stroke often comes down to supporting employers as well as stroke survivors. Few employers understand how complex and varied the effects of stroke can be, particularly more hidden effects like vision impairment, loss of confidence or fatigue. It isn’t just the stroke survivor who has to adjust to their new abilities, colleagues and co-workers do too.
An employee who has survived a stroke may require workplace adjustments, so the Stroke Association has produced a Complete Guide to Stroke for employers, with information on supporting stroke survivors in the work place, and a factsheet called ‘Stroke in People of Working Age’. Our Back to Work Project can provide tailored support to stroke survivors living in London to help them return to work, find volunteer opportunities or re-train. We also offer training and support for employers and colleagues to understand the impact of stroke better and to reduce their own risk.
Stroke survivors who would like support returning to work can discuss their options and potential challenges with a Fit for Work case manager, who can also be put in contact with their employer and help address concerns they may find difficult to discuss directly.
If you have had a stroke or you want to know more about the condition then visit www.stroke.org.uk or call the Stroke Association helpline on 0303 3033 100. If you are looking for advice on returning to work, visit the Back to Work Project webpage https://www.stroke.org.uk/finding-support/back-work-service-1 or the Fit for Work website, or call Fit for Work on 0800 032 6235.