Middle-age women need to take heart. That is, you need to take the protection of your heart very seriously. Results from two new studies give us some additional knowledge about what stress can do to the heart of a women who is going through menopause. And those results involve two areas very important to most women – their professional careers and their loved ones.
The first study, which was led by Dr. Michelle Albert, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, reported that women who have highly stressful jobs can increase their risk of suffering a heart attack by 88%, according to CBS News. The study followed 17,415 participants in the Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal study that is researching heart disease and cancer prevention. These women, who on average were 57 years old, were at the start of the study in 1999 were healthy and worked full or part time. The study’s participants, who mostly worked in health professions, completed surveys concerning the stress level related to their jobs. The researchers then divided the women into four groups based on the stress that they reported. Ten years later, researchers found that women with demanding jobs who had little control over how to do them suffered nearly twice as many heart attacks as women who had less demanding jobs and more control. In addition, the women in the high-stress group had a 40-percent greater risk of heart problems, including heart attacks and strokes, as well as clogged arteries needing medical procedures such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that an Australian study foundthat mourning the death of a spouse or child may cause damage the heart. I wanted to share this study to be important because middle-aged women are in that part of life where they may experience the death of a loved one, whether a spouse, child, or parent. The study found that grieving people may experience a quickened pulse or changes in heart rhythm. The University of Sydney researchers found that depression and anxiety caused by the death of a loved one may cause the heart to beat abnormally. The study looked at 78 recently bereaved spouses and parent as well as a comparison group of volunteers who hadn’t experienced a recent death. Those who had recently lost a loved one had twice as many episodes of rapid heartbeats in the first weeks after the death as people who were not grieving. After six months, the differences disappeared. However, this research also noted that earlier studies also have shown the connection between bereavement to an increased risk of heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.
So how do you take care of your heart? The American Heart Association recommends “Life’s Simple 7”: don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, eat a healthy diet (vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and fish), manage blood pressure, take charge of cholesterol, and keep blood sugar (glucose) at health levels.
Over a two-year period, I held a high-pressure professional position, which unexpectedly ended in 2005 due to budget cuts. Then in 2007, my mother died. I can tell you firsthand that these stresses came close to breaking my heart physically as well as emotionally. That’s why I encourage middle-age women to take special care of your heart as you face life’s biggest challenges.
Published On: November 15, 2010