Job Stress and Women’s Heart Health
Growing up, I was always under the impression that heart disease was more of a man’s problem than it was for women - gender notions of stress in the workplace, alcohol abuse, and other stereotypes probably rounded off this presumption. But did you know that since 1991, more women die each year of heart disease than do men? In fact, according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases kill twice as many women in the U.S. as all types of cancer - including breast cancer - combined.
What accounts for this relatively sudden rise? While there are certainly several factors, one leading theory is the increase of job stress in the modern woman’s life. In fact, women with high-stress jobs are twice as likely to have a heart attack than women with more easygoing careers. According to a Harvard Medical School research study, this held true across all racial, socioeconomic, and educational lines, and women who said their job requires them to work "very hard" or "very fast" were 88 percent more likely than those in less-stressful positions to have a heart attack.
So how can women counter workplace stress and prevent heart disease? Exercise is the best overall preventive effort one can take to counter stress. Just 30 minutes a day of low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking, or swimming, can do a world of good for your stress levels and your heart. Yoga is a great way tackling work stress by increasing strength, breath, and flexibility, all while focusing on relaxation and meditation.
Diet is also important - eat a lot of high-energy fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Veggies can help your brain produce more serotonin, which increases your sense of well-being, while fruits have natural vitamins to help boost your energy. Natural vitamin supplements can also help counter low and negative energy. Avoid fats and sugars, and lower your intake of animal protein, all of which can create a imbalance of stress-inducing chemicals such as dopamine and nor-epinephrine. Avoidance of caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes - vices often used to combat stress - is also very effective in lowering long-term stress and overall health.