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Stressed at Work? Here’s What it May Do to Your Heart
| Date Posted: 1/30/2023
It should come as no surprise that being stressed can be hard on your heart.
Stress increases inflammation in your body and may contribute to known heart risk factors such as high blood pressure. It can also cause you to make less-than-healthy choices, such as overeating, drinking too much alcohol, smoking or using drugs. And it may make you less likely to eat healthy foods, exercise, sleep well or maintain a healthy weight. All of these effects increase your risk of heart disease.
Although many aspects of your life can be stressful, one area where you may feel you can’t escape stress is at work. But over time, work stress can damage your heart, especially if you're a woman. One study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that women experiencing job and social strain had a 21% higher risk of developing heart disease.
So what are you supposed to do if work causes you stress?
One option is to leave your stressful job, but that’s not usually the best option for most people. These strategies help you de-stress during the work day so your job doesn’t take a toll on your heart health—or your overall mental and physical health:
- Learn to say no. You may feel like you always have to say yes at work to show your worth, but it’s helpful to know your limits and to say no when you’re feeling overextended and stressed out. You’ll not only feel less stressed, but you’ll be more productive.
- Plan ahead. Planning out your day and staying organized is one thing completely under your control that can help you reduce stress.
- Create a pre- and post-work routine. Some people arrive at the office already stressed or take work stress home with them. Keep stress to a minimum by creating routines for your commute to and from work that help you relax. Call a friend, listen to a podcast or sing along to your favorite tunes.
- Breathe. Meditation and deep breathing are helpful ways to calm the mind and reduce stress. Even if you have only a few minutes, find a quiet place to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths when stress hits. You’ll be back on your game in no time.
- Sit less. Moving more throughout the work day is a great stress reliever and is good for your heart. To combat the harmful effects of sitting too much, use a standing desk with or without a desk treadmill, suggest a walking meeting or start a lunchtime fitness routine with a coworker.
- Fuel up properly. Going for more than a few hours without food can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, which can make you irritable and stressed. Bring healthy snacks from home that will keep you going strong even when you’re short on time.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial groups in the United States. The number one killer globally, heart disease was responsible for more than 9 million deaths in 2019.
FirstHealthurges the community to “Go Red” this February as an effort to raise awareness about heart disease. On the first Friday of each February, which is designated as heart month, the nation unites in wearing red on National Wear Red Day to advocate for heart health. Raising awareness and knowledge of dangerous cardiovascular conditions can help prevent thousands of deaths.
It is important to keep up with regular visits to your primary care doctor and monitor changes in weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose. Additional behaviors that increase risk include tobacco use, alcohol use and not getting enough physical activity. To take the FirstHealth heart disease risk assessment quiz, visit www.firsthealth.org/heartquiz.