Women’s Heart Health and Stress

cardiogram Blood Pressure, Coronary Artery Disease, Heart Health, Heart IQ, Hypertension, Stress

Many women’s daily lives are stretched to the limit by the multiple roles they fill at work, at home, and in the community. In many households, women still perform most childcare, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and, in some cases, care of elderly parents or in-laws. Some working women have incorporated a male standard for achievement in the workplace while retaining the old-fashioned female standard for perfection at home. Meeting these standards can be a nearly impossible task.

Stress can manifest itself through physical symptoms, such as headaches, shaky hands, diarrhea or constipation, chest pain, shortness of breath, heartburn, hives, teeth grinding, hyperventilation, and other unpleasant sensations. Psychological signs of stress include anxiety, depression, frustration, forgetfulness, indecision, insomnia, and difficulty in learning or processing new information. 

Stress can increase blood pressure, heart rate, the demand for myocardial oxygen, and can sometimes lead to myocardial ischemia and angina. Stress and anxiety have been associated with cardiac disease and cardiac events in women. Personality traits such as anger and hostility, as well as psychological states, such as anxiety and depression, may very well contribute to CHD or trigger cardiovascular events.

Best Way to Reduce Stress

Of all the ways you can reduce stress, exercise has the potential to have the biggest impact on your heart health. Unsurprisingly, physical activity has an impact on many of the other cardiac risk factors. Women have a higher incidence of physical inactivity than men, 33.2% compared with 29.9%. Yet women do not have to run marathons to improve their cardiovascular health. For example, exercising at moderate intensity (for example, rapid walking) for 150 minutes per week, coupled with a 5% to 7% weight loss, can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for CHD. Becoming more active can reduce the incidence of heart disease in women by 30% to 40%.

hands forming a heart shape with sunset silhouette

What You Can Do to Help Your Heart

Some ways of dealing with stress, such as overeating, drinking heavily, and smoking, pose additional risks to the heart. Women need to find positive ways to cope with stress. Common stress-busting techniques include:

  • Plan ahead to avoid rushing and to have adequate time for what is most important.
  • Get adequate sleep 7-9 hours and use mindfulness and activity to fight insomnia.
  • If you forget something, forgive yourself. ‘Give yourself a break and just breathe.”
  • Remember to laugh. 
  • Make time for friends and family. Catch up with those who are important to you. 
  • Make to do lists to prioritize tasks and projects.
  • Help others by volunteering or helping a friend.
  • Exercise. It relieves tension both mental and physical.
  • Try to stop bad habits like drinking, smoking, or even caffeine as they can negatively impact health.
  • Take positive steps to improve things you can change by learning a new skill or working towards a goal. 

Starting small can still lead to big results. Make yourself a priority. Your heart will thank you.