Cardiovascular risk higher in hi-tech workers


TAIPEI, Taiwan — High income is usually the first thing that comes to the mind when hi-tech workers are mentioned, but the results of a study released Friday indicated that they also show high levels in other aspects — high blood lipid levels and high risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease — owing to an unhealthy lifestyle dominated by work.

Conducted by the Taiwan Atherosclerotic and Cardiovascular Disease Association (TACDA) between January and August this year among 953 workers at the Hsinchu Science Park, Central Taiwan Science Park and Southern Taiwan Science Park, the study revealed that most workers work long hours, do not exercise at all or adequately and have a poor diet.

It was found that 90 percent of the workers eat out everyday, with 60 percent having all three main meals of the day outside the home.

Also, 90 percent of the workers work at least eight hours per day and do not have the minimum exercise required — which is 30 minutes of exercise three times a week.

The study, which included blood tests on the workers, found that the ratio of those with hyperlipidemia is three times as much as that among average people, when compared with the findings of another study carried out in 2000 among 6,332 people drawn from the average population.

The problem is especially severe among workers aged 40 or older, of which 37 percent of men and 34.4 percent of women have a total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dl or more. The ratios are three times higher than those among average people from the same age group.

In terms of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) , the ratio of those recording a level lower than 40 mg/dl is two times higher than that of average people.

Meanwhile, the ratio of those with a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) level of 160 mg/dl or more is five to 10 times higher.

The study further estimated the risk of the workers suffering from cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years and found the chance to be 50 percent higher than average people.

The evaluation was based on a list of predictors identified by the U.S. Framingham Heart Study, which includes age, diabetes, smoking, treated and untreated systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL-C and body mass index (BMI) replacing lipids in a simpler model.

According to TACDA Secretary-General Ho Li-lwun, the results of the study — which was conducted just before the hi tech sector was hit by a recession — demonstrate that the prosperity of Taiwan’s hi-tech sector has come at the cost of its workers’ health.

In this sense, the recent decisions by some hi-tech companies to reduce production, compel workers to take leave or lay off workers are not necessarily bad news, because they will allow the workers some long-overdue rest, Ho said.