women creating a heart with her hands

Heart disease is the number one killer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stress is one of the major risk factors responsible for cardiovascular disease. According to the American Institute of Stress, work is the major stress source for American adults. 

Purvi Parwani, MD, a Loma Linda University International Heart Institute cardiovascular disease specialist who focuses on women’s cardiovascular disease, says high mortality due to cardiovascular disease in women can only be changed if women put their heart health first.

“We as women we have to take ownership of heart health,” Parwani says. “Women still remain underserved in healthcare when it comes to cardiovascular disease prevention and survival due to their unique symptoms.”

Parwani says part of taking ownership over women’s heart health is about making it work and taking small steps in one of the most stressful places: the workplace. Here are her five tips for reducing stress at work:

  1. Try facial stress-relief techniques. If you are in a stressful situation at work, Parwani advises to use havening relaxation techniques, such as rubbing your cheeks or forehead. She also says to take a break from the stressful environment by practicing deep breathing with a straight posture and closed eyes. This additional technique may help you calm down if you are having a stressful conversation with a co-worker or are upset about something on the job. 
  2. Snack on exercising. Parwani says some exercise is better than no exercise, and having a busy schedule or not enough time to exercise because of work should not be the reason for you to be inactive. She keeps a miniature stationary bike under her desk and peddles on it while working at her desk. She says other things that will help increase your heart rate at work include doing push-ups, parking far from your office, standing up every hour, taking stairs instead of the elevator or going for a 10-minute walk after lunch. 
  3. Stay hydrated. Always have a water bottle handy. Our bodies are mostly water, and staying hydrated is important to keep our systems functioning. 
  4. If you are a leader, be an activity leader. If you are a leader within your organization, use exercise for team building. Organize an optional exercise hour in the office gym or a stress relief activity such as yoga or a meditation class — after all, you're the boss. 
  5. Plan your meals. When you plan your meals for the week, you can avoid using up mental energy with food choices during your workday. Be sure to think of healthy foods and healthy portions. Remember to avoid meat and include lots of vegetables and fruits.

In addition to these work-related tips, Parwani urges women to never forget the top three risk factors that also require personal discipline — quit smoking if you smoke, avoid use of alcohol and make sure you check your family history. If you are interested in knowing your cardiovascular risk assessment feel free to visit the test online or if you would like to talk with a cardiologist about any concerns feel free to call 1-800-468-5432