How to Determine if a Heart Attack is Work-Related: A Guide for Employees and Employers

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a serious medical condition that occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked, causing damage to the heart tissue A heart attack can have various symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, and pain in the arm, neck, back, jaw, or stomach A heart attack can be fatal or lead to complications such as heart failure, irregular heartbeat, shock, or cardiac arrest

A heart attack can happen to anyone, but some factors can increase the risk of having one. These include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake Some of these factors can be influenced by the work environment and the nature of the job. Therefore, it is important to know how to determine if a heart attack is work-related and what are the implications for workers’ compensation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), long working hours are a major occupational risk factor for heart disease and stroke Working 55 hours or more per week is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (the most common type of heart attack) compared to working 35-40 hours per week The WHO and the ILO estimate that in 2016, 745,000 people died from stroke and heart disease due to working long hours

Other work-related factors that can contribute to a heart attack include:

  • Physical exertion: Heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy objects can strain the heart and increase blood pressure
  • Psychological stress: High demands, low control, low support, or high conflict at work can cause emotional distress and trigger the release of stress hormones that affect the heart
  • Environmental exposure: Exposure to extreme heat or cold, noise, vibration, dust, chemicals, or radiation can affect the blood vessels and the heart function

A heart attack is considered work-related if it is caused by or aggravated by any of these factors while performing work duties or as a result of work conditions However, proving that a heart attack is work-related can be challenging, as there may be other non-work-related factors involved. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor and a lawyer who can help evaluate the case and provide evidence.

Workers’ compensation is a system that provides benefits to workers who suffer injuries or illnesses due to their work. These benefits may include medical expenses, lost wages, disability payments, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits

If a worker suffers a heart attack that is work-related, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, they need to file a claim within a certain time limit and follow the procedures required by their state or country

Workers’ compensation claims for work-related heart attacks may be disputed by employers or insurance companies who may argue that the heart attack was not caused by work or that there were pre-existing conditions that contributed to it. Therefore, it is essential to have medical records and documentation that support the claim and show the link between work and the heart attack

Workers’ compensation claims for work-related heart attacks may also depend on the type of employment and the nature of the job. For example, some occupations such as firefighters, police officers, paramedics, or military personnel may have presumptions that their heart attacks are work-related unless proven otherwise

Work-related heart attacks can be prevented by taking measures to reduce the risk factors and promote a healthy lifestyle. Some of these measures include:

  • Limiting working hours and taking breaks: Working long hours without rest can increase stress levels and fatigue and affect the cardiovascular system. It is recommended to limit working hours to 40 hours per week or less and take regular breaks throughout the day
  • Managing stress and seeking support: Stress can have negative effects on mental and physical health and increase the risk of heart disease. It is important to identify the sources of stress at work and find ways to cope with them. This may include seeking help from a supervisor, a colleague, a counselor, or a support group
  • Improving work conditions and ergonomics: The work environment and the equipment used can affect the comfort and safety of workers and their heart health. It is advisable to ensure that the work place is well-ventilated, well-lit, and free of hazards. It is also important to use ergonomic tools and furniture that reduce physical strain and prevent injuries
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle: Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on heart health. It is recommended to eat a balanced diet that is low in salt, fat, and sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is also advised to exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity. Additionally, it is important to quit smoking and limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men


A heart attack is a serious medical condition that can be caused or worsened by work-related factors such as long working hours, physical exertion, psychological stress, or environmental exposure. A work-related heart attack may entitle a worker to workers’ compensation benefits, but they need to prove the causal link between work and the heart attack and follow the claim procedures. A work-related heart attack can be prevented by limiting working hours, managing stress, improving work conditions, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Doms Desk

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