Did you know financial stress can take a toll on women’s hearts?
Scientists still know relatively little about the factors that affect heart disease in women who haven’t had heart problems previously. “Much of the prior research related to negative life events was done in persons who have a history of heart attacks, and in men,” explained Dr. Michelle Albert, a co-author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco.
Just like stress affects men and women in different ways, so does heart disease, which is currently the No. 1 cause of death for women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although men are more likely to suffer a heart attack, female heart-attack patients tend to fare worse. About 25 percent of women who have a heart attack will die within a year, compared with 20 percent of men, and a 2014 study found that among younger people, in particular, women have longer hospital stays than men after suffering a heart attack.
On average, women also tend to develop heart disease about 10 years later than men. Previous research has suggested that some of this gap might have to do with insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. Insulin resistance — a condition that can lead to high blood sugar levels — may increase the risk of heart disease, but a 2013 study found that women’s bodies seem to handle insulin resistance better than men’s, leaving them with fewer of the condition’s negative effects.
This most recent study, presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, illustrates the need for further gender-specific research on heart-disease risk factors, “particularly in women who also have limited socioeconomic resources.”
“At the biological level, we know that adverse experiences, including psychological ones, can lead to increased inflammation and cortisol levels,” Albert said, but “the interplay between gender, heart disease and psychological factors is poorly understood.”
SO, here are 5 Strategies to Deal with Financial Stress and HELP your HEART!
- Create a Budget
At first, you may think that a budget is only going to add to your financial stress, but it is the best tool you have to get control of your finances and stop worrying about money. A budget allows you to decide when and how you are going to spend your money. It is really a spending plan that makes sure you are reaching your retirement, and savings goals. It can help you find extra money to put towards debt.
- Get an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is money you have set aside to cover unexpected expenses and financial emergencies. Although a car repair can be expensive and stressful, if you know you can tap into your emergency fund to cover it, a lot of the stress will go away. It is also easier to use the money in your budget the way you planned, if you know you have the extra money in the bank ready to cover the unexpected emergencies that may crop up. You should have at least $1,000 in the bank until you are out of debt and after that you should work up to about six months of your expenses. Building an emergency fund may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet each month.
- Get Outside Help
If you are really struggling with getting a handle on your budget and spending issues, do not be afraid to get outside help. You can take classes on basic money management and investing that will help you plan out a budget and do the things you need to succeed financially. A financial planner can help you create a long-term investing strategy that will help you plan for retirement. It is important to realize that you do not have to face the problems alone. If you are feeling overwhelmed by debt you can also use a credit counseling service. You can also take a financial class that coaches you through budgeting and other aspects of your personal finances.
- Determine What You Can Change
Change is not always easy. Start with small steps and work up to bigger changes. Additionally, if you make a mistake one week, it does not mean that you should stop trying to stick to your budget or keep working on making those changes. It helps to realize that it is a journey and even if you take a short detour or a small break, you can keep moving forward and make the necessary changes.
- Find Positive Aspects of your Life Each Day
While this may sound like it is not really a solution to your problem, it can make a big difference in the amount of stress that you feel. You can do this by tracking your progress towards your financial goals. Looking at the positive aspects of your life each day can also help you reduce your stress. If possible, try to find some healthy outlets that do not cost a lot of money. Regular exercise and taking care of yourself can reduce your overall stress, which allows you to better focus on the problems and make headway. You can change your financial situation, and you will find it easier to accomplish if you are not worried and afraid all of the time.
Kiki Magno, MSN, RN, BC and the Healthy Nurse Healthy New Jersey Team