Work Stress: Hazardous to Your Health

According to a new study, women who experience high stress on their jobs have an increased risk for heart attack or other forms of heart disease.

The findings, based on data from 17,415 healthy middle-aged women participating in the Women's Health Study, showed that women who reported high-job strain, as defined by demanding work with little decision-making authority or ability to use one's creativity and skills, had a 40 percent increase in cardiovascular disease over all, and an 88 percent increase in risk for heart attacks alone.

The study also found that while women who were worried about losing their job didn't have an increase in heart problems, they were more likely than women secure in their jobs to be overweight or to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, two major risk factors for heart disease.

While you can't entirely eliminate stress from your life, you can learn to manage it effectively and reduce your risk for heart disease. If you're concerned about on-the-job stress or stress in your life generally, talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your stress levels and improve your heart health.

These tips can also help:

  • Set aside time during the day to relax and recharge your batteries.
  • Spend time with positive people who enhance your life.
  • Do something you enjoy every day.
  • Accept the things you can't change and focus instead on the things you can control in your life.
  • Start a stress journal to help you identify the regular stressors in your life and how you dealt with them.
  • Know your limits and learn to say "no" in both your personal and professional life.
  • Learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga and tai chi, and practice them daily.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle can help boost your physical health and increase your resistance to stressful situations. Try,
  • Staying active. Getting regular physical exercise most days of the week will help release pent-up stress and tension.
  • Eat a healthy diet. When you're well nourished, you're better able to cope with stressful situations.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking raises your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide some relief from the feelings of stress but the effects are only temporary.
  • Get enough sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate stress levels. Getting adequate sleep can help you feel physically and mentally rested.