This Article is From Mar 07, 2022

International Women's Day: How Stress Can Impact The Heart And Brain In Women

Though majority of us know that poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle can lead to multiple problems like cardiovascular disease, weight gain and various aches and pains, very few take corrective measures.

International Women's Day: How Stress Can Impact The Heart And Brain In Women

Lack of sleep can lead to both physical and mental fatigue

Like men the most common cause of death among women is heart disease, to be precise ‘cardiovascular disease' which means blocks in the blood vessels of heart or brain. There are multiple health conditions which predispose both men and women to cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, hypertension, high levels of bad cholesterol, low levels of good cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, stress, smoking and genetic predisposition or family history. In addition, women particularly have a few more risk factors, diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy and rheumatic disorders.

Though majority of us know that poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle can lead to multiple problems like cardiovascular disease, weight gain and various aches and pains, very few take corrective measures. In most households, grocery shopping and cooking at home are done by women. Which means, if they are aware about good eating habits and healthy lifestyle choices, it will benefit the entire family and thus the whole society.

Let's discuss few tips for women which can help in preventing cardiovascular disease.

1. Cultivate Healthy Eating Habits 

Never skip Breakfast.

Drink plenty of water, at least 2 to 2.5 litres a day. The adequate water intake for a person is when he or she always passes clear urine.

Include plenty of vegetables and seasonal fruits in your diet. At least 2 to 3 servings of fruits per day is mandatory for all members of the family.

Avoid consuming processed foods, fast foods, desserts, bakery items as much as possible. Prefer multigrain bread as it contains more fibre and nutrients than white bread.
Avoid consuming refined carbohydrates such as Maida (refined flour).
Try natural sources of sweetness like honey instead of white sugar.

Include the necessary amount of proteins and healthy fat in diet.

A good dietician can give a clear picture of balanced diet and can also help a woman to practically plan the food being prepared in her house.

Encourage all family members to eat home cooked food as much as possible.

Have an early dinner around sunset.

2. Exercise 

Finding time for exercise is our responsibility. Stay active throughout the day. Use staircase instead of lift whenever possible. If you have an office job where you are sitting throughout working hours, take short breaks and walk for 5 minutes. If too busy, even standing for a while is helpful.

Know your height, weight and body mass index.
Talk to an exercise expert regarding what all exercises each person has to incorporate in daily routine.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue both physical and mental which can result in inability to exercise as well as difficulty in adhering to a proper diet. Though we may know about a healthy diet, psychological imbalances due to stress and lack of sleep can lead to overeating.
So minimum 6 to 8 hours of sound sleep is a must for a woman's health.

4. Stop Multitasking

If all these need to happen, women should stop multitasking.

When trying to do multiple tasks at the same time, it is hard to differentiate between what is more important and what isn't.

Dedicate at least an hour daily for self-care.

Plan your day well in advance, at least by the prior evening. That helps in stocking the necessary groceries so that your family's diet will be a balanced diet. Never go shopping groceries on an empty stomach.

Call for help whenever needed.

5. Get Annual Health Check-ups
For men and women alike, get annual health check-up to find out if you have any lifestyle diseases. Follow corrective measures advised by the physician meticulously.

For women, periodic preventive health screening for cervical and breast cancer is also recommended.

Remember You can take care of your family only if you have good health. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

Effect of Stress 

‘Stress' or ‘mental stress', a ubiquitous phenomenon, is commonly, though incorrectly, implicated as a cause for many neurological disorders such as headaches, stroke, dementia, epilepsy, or chronic low back ache. This is an ill-founded deep-rooted unscientific myth. With increasing understanding of the disease mechanisms due to breakthrough research in genetics and neuroimmunology, and widespread availability of diagnostic testing, the interface between the psychological and the neurological disorders is rapidly diminishing. A role of endogenous steroids and catecholamines, and autoantibodies in the development of stress and acute or chronic neurological manifestations such as headache, tremulousness, lack of concentration, memory or attention deficits, loss of consciousness with or without abnormal body posturing or movements, weakness or loss of sensation in one or more limbs, abnormal bizarre movements, inability to speak, and/or neck or back pain. Females have been reported to be more commonly affected by stress and thus manifest. A stressor preceding the onset of the complaints may not be overt and requires a diligent and empathetic effort from the treating physician who must keep a high index of suspicion. However, the non-specific nature of these complaints poses a significant challenge in this distinction. Most of the routine investigations may not establish the etiology and thus result in sub-optimal management. Not uncommonly, a primary neurological disorder, such as migraine, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, dementia, spondylotic / degenerative spine disease, myasthenia, etc., co-exist or are aggravated/precipitated by the stress or vice-versa. The caregivers of patients with chronic neurological disorders can also suffer from stress.

However, there is no mechanism to quantify the ‘stress' and public awareness about
mental health and various neurological disorders can only bridge this gap across all age groups, especially during the present challenging times of on-going SARS2-COVID pandemic
as effective treatments are available and constantly evolving.

(Dr. Manish Mahajan, Sr. Consultant - Neurology & Head - Neuroimmunology, Artemis hospital; Dr Ankur Phatarpekar, Director CATH LABS, Cardiologist, Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai)

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