New research finds that stress at work is a huge contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack for women
By Leah Zerbe, Rodale.com
Job stress and worrying about job security can both take a toll on a woman’s body, although the two issues affect female health differently, according to research presented last month at the American Heart Association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. But whether chronic work-related stress is eating at your nerves or ballooning your waistline, there are natural solutions with no toxic side effects that you can use to relax the pressure.
The details: In a recent study looking at work stress and women, researchers from Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied more than 17,000 otherwise healthy women (generally in their 50s) enrolled in the Women’s Health Study for 10 years. Women who reported work-related strain, such as having little or no authority over decisions or being unable to contribute creativity and skills to the job, were up to 88 percent more likely to experience a heart attack than women who reported no work strain. Overall, working women reporting high job strain faced a 40 percent higher rate of cardiovascular disease, too.
Worrying about losing a job did not appear to increase heart attack risk, but it was linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease.
What it means: Whether it’s a nightmarish cubicle neighbor, an unrelenting workload, or an ornery boss that has your stress meter ready to pop at any second, you can get a grip: It’s all about mind over matter. An August study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that students taking part in Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) enjoyed changes in white brain matter (within 11 hours of practice) that seemed connected to better regulation of emotions and behavior.
Although now very common the U.S. yet, IBMT involves the practice of maintaining a state of restful alertness to tap into body-mind awareness while a trained coach guides your breathing and mental imagery. It’s somewhat similar to more widely available mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which involves focusing on your present-moment thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. MBSR has been shown to help people make clearer decisions in times of crisis, which could help when all health breaks loose at the office.
Next: How to lower your stress levels without turning to meds.