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The Newest Heart Risk For Women: Unemployment

I've devoted many pages on my Web site about the undeniable link between emotional stress and its effect on one's health. That connection between the psychological stress people feel and the negative effect it has on their bodies is something medicine has been slow to acknowledge until recently.

That's why it's not surprising for me to read a study about the higher risks of cardiovascular disease faced by women who have been fired or laid off their jobs, in addition to the emotional distress they feel. Researchers found women who had become involuntarily unemployed experienced more high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, chest pain and stroke as well as a deterioration of mental health such as increases in stress, depression and emotional problems.

Scientists studied the habits and health of some 35,000 black and white American women, ages 25-64 years, who were categorized the women into three groups: employed, involuntarily unemployed and homemakers. Women were asked about their mental and health status and whether they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure or had cardiovascular disease such as a previous heart attack, chest pain or stroke.

Overall, unemployed women reported the worst physical health, with 28 percent having high blood pressure and 6 percent, having a self-reported heart attack, chest pain or stroke. Not surprisingly, employed women had the best physical health with only 19 percent having high blood pressure and only 2 percent with cardiovascular disease.

The health of homemakers was generally comparable to employed women with one interesting exception: The presence of cardiovascular disease, which was 1.7 times higher among homemakers. Also, 19 percent of the homemakers polled had high blood pressure, identical to employed women, but about 4 percent reported they had cardiovascular disease.

That's why the connection between emotional and physical health is not only the foundation of my vision, but also a recurring factor in the illnesses of nearly all the patients I see. So, what can you do to lessen the emotional problems that can affect your health so profoundly?

The key to staying healthy is not eliminating stress, because we're exposed to it all the time. Adjusting your body's ability to tolerate it, however, will make a difference. Of course, limiting stressful situations as much as possible will help. Some other proven tools that will help you:

  • I've found energy psychology tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be very useful in battling the daily stressors in your life.
  • Strongly consider the power of prayer. So many studies have documented it, and the science that proves its healing power is very solid.
  • If you meditate to keep stress at bay, you may want to consider trying the Insight CD, a brainwave entrainment tool that allows your brain to rapidly and easily synchronize with the delta waves commonly experienced in meditation.

Science Blog February 23, 2005

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