Sep 15, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

You didn’t rise to the top of the game as your company’s CEO by being a slacker. Long hours don’t scare you. Neither do cross-country flights for business and client meetings. Pulling an all-nighter to
make sure you seal the deal tomorrow? That’s kids’ stuff in your playbook by now. But sometimes it’s hard to ignore the tiny voice in the back of your head that nags you about your health —the one that questions whether 80-hour work weeks, food on the go and haphazard sleep patterns are going to catch up with you in the long run.

If statistics from University of Utah Health are any indication, the answer is yes, despite how indestructible top executives might often feel in their daily lives. CEOs and other executives make up a solid percentage of heart patients at the university’s Cardiovascular Center, according to Amit Patel, MD, an associate professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

In fact, approximately 15 percent of the 20,000 patients who visit the University of Utah Cardiovascular Center each year meet the definition of “high-stress CEOs.” Heart patients who fall into this category are usually on the road with inconsistent eating patterns and frequently must adjust to changes in time zones as they travel from coast to coast. Throw in little time for sleep and exercise and it’s not a surprise that many CEOs are more prone to high blood pressure which progresses to coronary diseases like atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rate that results in poor blood flow. Heart attacks are also more common in high-stress patients like CEOs than in other populations, studies show.

“In this patient population, you see high blood pressure earlier in their career,” said Patel. “Many CEOs won’t notice the effects of high blood pressure when they are building their careers in their 20s and 30s, but by the time they hit their 40s, the lifestyle will start to catch up with them.”

So how can you avoid quadruple bypass surgery? Before you tense up waiting to hear how you must make a drastic lifestyle change, hold on: You don’t need drop that Big Mac or start running 10 miles each day to get back on track (although that might not hurt). Making one small change can steer you in the right direction of leading a healthier life, said Patel.

For Patel and his colleague, John Ryan, MD, a cardiologist at University of Utah Health, encouraging patients to squeeze in a short 10 to 20 minutes of daily exercise in the form of yoga or meditation can assist in providing some calm during the frenetic pace of a CEO’s work week.

“There is plenty of data that shows professional performance improves with moderate exercise. Sacrificing 20 to 30 minutes of exercise to do 20 to 30 minutes of extra work in the end could hinder your outcomes,” said Ryan. “Make the time for a healthier life.”

heart health cardiothoracic surgery

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