Stress and Women's Health, Part 2
Continuing my Woman and Stress series, I take a further look at women’s health conditions affected by stress and actions that might help to alleviate the symptoms.
In my first blog post of the series I looked at the impact of stress on women’s health with regards to hair loss and ageing skin, disrupted digestion, low mood, anxiety and sleep problems. In this second part, I explore how stress can affect women and their weight, as well as the impact stress can have on the heart.
Fat around the middle
Research has linked higher levels of stress hormones to a slower metabolism, food cravings and increased weight around the waist and abdomen in women.
Stress disrupts blood sugar levels and can lead to cravings for ‘comfort’ foods such as those high in sugar, processed grains, fats and salt.
Suggestion: as well as taking regular exercise, drink plenty of water, make good dietary choices and eat regular healthy meals and snacks to help stabilise blood sugar levels and thus limit cravings. Choose foods that release energy slowly, such as wholegrain cereals, green vegetables, protein such as eggs, chicken, tofu and salmon, as well as nuts and seeds. Have a look at the GI Diet Guide for more information on high, medium and low GI foods.
The essential trace element chromium, taken in supplement form, and cinnamon added to drinks and meals can both help restore balance and prevent cravings, as can taking a course of Craving Essence, a combination flower remedy, which can increase the ability to feel more in control, on top of things, serene and improve self image.
Increased risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
According to a 2012 study of over 22,000 women, women under high amounts of stress at work were 40% more likely to experience a cardiovascular event (a heart attack or stroke) than women who reported low levels of job-related stress.
Factors such as long term exposure to adrenaline and cortisol and increased levels of cholesterol in the blood, impact on blood pressure and blood clotting and are all linked to elevated stress.
Suggestion: Limit intake of saturated fat, salt and sugar and include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day in your diet. It is also wise to watch your food portion sizes and keep these within recommended guidelines. A good tip is to keep a meal size to the amount that would fit into the palms of your hands cupped together.
Herbs and foods such as Globe Artichoke have been found to inhibit the manufacture of cholesterol, whilst encouraging its breakdown and reducing its absorption in the gut. It also increases bile production and its movement into the intestines, thereby improving the way dietary fats are metabolised.
Crataegus (Hawthorn) has been used traditionally for both slightly high and slightly low blood pressure, as it is thought to act as a true cardiac ‘tonic’, aiding oxygen supply to the heart muscle itself by exerting a mild dilatory effect on the vessels supplying the heart, improving the function of the muscle.
Do check with the doctor or pharmacist if you are on any other heart medications.
Look out for the third part of this series, where I'll be addressing the negative impact stress can have on women's menstrual cycles and fertility, as well as how stress can affect the skin.
Do any of these symptoms / health conditions sound familiar? How is stress affecting your health? Let me know by leaving a comment below…