Women’s Heart Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women – but despite the launch of numerous awareness initiatives, barely half understand the risks. Let’s look at what heart disease is and what we (especially women) can do about it.

Heart Disease Basics

“Heart disease” includes a variety of conditions that affect the heart structure and how it functions. Coronary artery disease, the most common, occurs when your arteries become clogged with a plaque buildup. This makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through the body. Coronary artery disease, in turn, leads to coronary heart disease.

Heart Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of heart disease may include some or all of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pressure or tightness
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
  • Nausea or vomiting

What can increase the risk?

It’s a given that everyone should watch their weight, but for some, that’s easier said than done. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that more adults today aged 20-44 have obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes than even just one decade ago.

Smoking is detrimental to overall health, but it’s also a specific risk factor for heart disease. Another factor, stress, can be incredibly challenging to correct, especially for women. According to the American Heart Association, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, which, in turn, may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that women remain primarily responsible for family duties in the home even if they also work outside the home. This double burden often leads to chronic stress.

Helpful Healthy Habits

Women who work both at home for their families and at outside employment may feel they don’t have time to develop healthier habits. But their lives may depend on it. How can women (and men, too!) reduce their risk of developing heart disease?

  • Quit smoking (better yet, never start)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress
  • Get enough sleep

Wellness Programs

In some workplaces, women represent half or more of the workforce. Benefit programs should offer affordable access to various health and wellness programs. When employers help workers manage their stress, they may see reduced healthcare costs overall as well as increased productivity.

Sleep Aids

Over-the-counter sleep aids, sleep masks, and sleep deprivation treatments may help those who like awake at night to “shut off their brain.” These are commonly eligible expenses for FSAs (Flexible Savings Accounts) and HSAs (Health Savings Accounts).

Smoking Cessation

You can also use FSA and HSA funds to pay for programs to quit smoking, nicotine gum and patches, and copays for behavioral therapy appointments.

Stress Relief

Employers can help women dealing with stress and anxiety caused by caring for children, aging parents, and professional responsibilities by offering helpful programs, such as a Dependent Care Assistance Program and a Student Loan Assistance Program, to alleviate the financial burden of daycare services. An FSA, HSA, or HRA could help cover the costs for those needing ongoing stress and anxiety medication or therapy. 

Why is women’s heart health so important for employers?

Bright Horizons found in a recent study that a majority of Americans believe working moms and women leaders have unique skills that can help companies and employees thrive. By assisting women employees in the pursuit of good heart health, employers are helping prepare them to take on leadership roles in the future.

For 40 years, DataPath has been a pivotal force in the employee benefits, financial services, and insurance industries. The company’s flagship DataPath Summit platform offers an integrated solution for managing CDH, HSA, Well-Being, COBRA, and Billing. Through its partnership with Accelergent Growth Solutions, DataPath also offers expert BPO services, automation, outsourced customer service, and award-winning marketing services.

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