In today’s work world, women are a force to be reckoned with. Today, more Canadian women occupy top executive positions, and many have gone on to launch their own businesses. In fact, according to Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, women are majority owners of about 15.6 per cent of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with one or more employees – about 114,000 companies (2017). But women account for over 37 per cent of self-employed Canadians or 1,050,000 (2019).
Though women thriving as entrepreneurs is a positive thing and we are celebrating it on September 22nd for ‘Business Women Day’ – but there is a downside. Women in high-stress positions are at risk of heart disease and other heart-related illnesses. In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death. Amongst women, it is the number one cause of death, claiming nearly 31,000 lives per year, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Heart disease kills more women when compared to breast cancer.
How working long hours affects the heart
Working long hours, sitting for long hours, staring at a computer for long hours and not eating right – these are just a few factors that can affect heart health, especially in women.
A United Nations World Health and International Labour Organization agencies study revealed that working more than 55 hour weeks increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The report also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to an increased tendency to work longer hours.
Of course, anyone, male or female, can have adverse effects on their health due to working long hours. But women are already at a higher risk of heart-related incidents particularly those who are pre-menopausal or menopausal. Once a woman hits menopause, her risk of heart disease increases.
Harvard Medical School conducted a study that confirmed links between women’s stress on the job and cardiovascular disease. The study also showed that women working in high stress environments have a 40 per cent increased risk of heart disease, which includes heart attacks and the need for coronary artery surgery. Couple that with the increased worry of job security and you have many unhealthy women with high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and suffering from obesity.
To find out why women are at a higher risk, read our blog – Women’s Heart Health: Why Are Women More Susceptible to Heart Disease?
How to Stay Working and Heart Healthy
It’s important to set boundaries and parameters around working hours – easier said than done. Understanding that work will always be there and staying extra hours each day will not only lead to worker burnout, but it will adversely affect one’s heart health. Taking frequent mini breaks to stand up and walk around will help with circulation. Mindfulness and meditation exercises may also help relieve stress during the day.
Often, women who work long hours also tend to skip meals or eat unhealthy processed foods. This contributes to overall poor heart health and can have lasting consequences. Hydrating during the day is equally important for those who work long hours. Eating balanced, healthy meals can help keep the body fueled and the mind sharp.
Find out what foods are considered heart healthy in our blog – Heart Healthy Super Foods to Incorporate in Your Daily Diet.
Want to learn about mindfulness and meditation? There are lots of free articles and apps, like mindful.org.
When it comes to heart health and work, WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!