No one can blame you if you don't want to think about heart disease. You've got enough to worry about; your maniac boss, the batty woman in the apartment downstairs who complains when you walk too loudly, and let's not even talk about all that Valentine's Day pressure. How can you add something else to your to-do lost? Women often tell me their days are full from the time they get up to the time they go to bed, and I think it's getting worse.
If you haven't had one millisecond to think about yourself today, stop. Take a deep breath. And another one. Why is slowing down, even a little, so critical? Because doctors on the front lines of cardiovascular care are becoming convinced that stress is a killer. We've known that men had heart attacks because they had stressful jobs and roles; now women have those jobs. In so many ways, women are now men. Women are juggling so much that they’ve forgotten what's happening mentally affects them physically.
Stress doesn't just keep you from exercising or eating right (though that's often true); it also has a direct impact on your cardiovascular system. Scientists are still trying to prove how much damage stress can do, but evidence worldwide is beginning to show the link is irrefutable. Studies in Denmark and Japan found that highly stressed people had twice the risk of stroke as those who felt more at ease. Researchers in London discovered that stress levels could help predict which women and men were most likely to have heart disease. And a study at Johns Hopkins University showed that people whose blood pressure shot up during a stressful lab test were six times more likely to have a heart attack within six years n people who coped better; and the effect was more powerful than smoking or high cholesterol!
As the science gets better, I think we'll be stunned by how prevalent and powerful the stress connection is, especially for women. The ramifications of simply carrying on with our busy lives could be devastatingly high.