So what do we do when we know stress takes a major on women's heart health? A study released recently found that women who report high stress on the job and especially those with full time work and families to juggle, have a 40% increased risk of being diagnosed with heart disease -- before they turn 40!
Researchers at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, MA looked at survey data from 17,415 women who were part of a Women's Health Study. These women were primarily white health professionals in their 40’s and 50s. They were followed for more than 10 years. Job stress was defined as having a demanding job but little or no decision-making authority or opportunities to use one's creative or individual skills (many studies have shown when you feel you have no control over your work environment your stress levels are off the charts). Researchers tested numerous outlets for the participants to reduce and or eliminate their stress-reactors, and of all studied, YOGA was the top-of-the-list reducer - over 60% of women tested (some with early signs of anxiety or depression) shared that they not only felt an immediate release and calming of their stress symptoms, but more than 50% of the women stated they had lasting effects long after they concluded a 60-minute yoga session.
Yoga, once viewed as only a choice for exercise for the super fit and flexible, has become the fastest growing health program option in America; an activity equal to running and cycling. This new popularity has been proven to be a life-long healer for individuals with high blood pressure, have suffered a mild heart attack, and other types of cardiovascular disease - women benefit the greatest from the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
A promising body of research has been conducted and now suggests that yoga’s combination of stretching, gentle activity, breathing, and mindfulness may have special, long term benefits for people with cardiovascular disease or show signs of a preventable heart attack.
Yoga and the Heart.
The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit term that means union. It aims to join body, mind, and the day-to-day challenges of life into a unified experience rather than keep them separate. There are different forms of yoga, from the gentle, peaceful Hatha yoga to the active “power” form called Ashtanga.
Yoga’s path to balancing the mind and the body involves three interconnected threads: physical postures called “asanas,” controlled breathing, and calming the mind through relaxation and meditation. The three work together. How does this improve cardiovascular health? The Harvard Medical Study suggests, getting into the various postures during a yoga session gently exercises the muscles. Anything that works your muscles is good for your heart and blood vessels. Activity also helps muscles become more sensitive to insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar. The deep-breathing exercises help slow the breathing rate. Taking fewer but deeper breaths each minute temporarily lowers blood pressure and calms the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for generating stress hormones. The postures and deep breathing offer a kind of physical meditation that focuses and clears the mind. Meditation and the mindfulness of yoga have both been shown to help people with cardiovascular disease.
It Does Your Heart Good.
The Harvard School of Medicine and a research team’s body of work suggests that yoga may;