Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack?

Can stress cause a heart attack? Recent studies have shown that stress at work might actually put some people at greater risk of heart problems. And stress certainly isn’t decreasing. A Regus Group survey found that out of 22,000 people in over 100 countries, more than 53 percent felt that they were closer to burnout in 2015 than five years earlier. As a business owner, this is just one more reason to find ways to reduce stress at work. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Work Stress Can Increase Heart Attack Risks

A study by Harvard researchers found that job-related stress increases women’s risk of heart attacks, Healthline reported. Out of 17,415 participants, women with high-stress jobs had an 88 percent greater risk of heart attacks than women with low-stress jobs. Further, the risk of any cardiovascular event was 40 percent higher in women with high-stress jobs. Likewise, prior studies have already shown that men with job stress are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Demanding tasks, whether accompanied with a high degree of authority or little authority, can contribute to the health risks.

Encourage Open Communication

One key to reducing stress in the workplace is encouraging open communication. If employees have issues or worries, encourage them to come to you with their concerns. Don’t create a situation where the staff is scared that being open will cause them to be let go from their jobs. Instead, help them work toward solutions that can reduce stress. You might want to keep notes on what triggers the most stress among your employees and find ways to reduce those sources of tension.

Promote Workplace Wellness

Healthy living and exercise can play a big role in reducing stress. For example, a 90-minute yoga class twice a week can improve anxiety, depression and stress in women, Harvard reported. That’s why it’s important to promote wellness in your office. You can offer healthier snack alternatives, give paid time off for doctors visits, provide gym discounts and even offer in-house exercise classes if you have space. Some wellness programs encourage healthier living by giving out points that can be redeemed in the form of lower health care premiums.

Don’t Forget About Mental Wellness

While physical health can certainly decrease stress, you’ll also want to give your employees the tools they need to handle emotional stress as well. One way to help teach employees how to handle stress is by offering mindfulness classes, the Harvard Business Review suggests. Mindfulness exercises can promote productivity, resilience and better stress management.

You might also want to consider investing in an employee assistance program. These are confidential services offered by third parties, such as health insurance carriers, geared toward helping employees handle issues that can affect physical and mental health. For example, they may offer counseling sessions, stress management classes, legal assistance or financial assistance. Help in these areas can certainly reduce stress.

Encourage Employees to Unplug

Give your employees a chance to unplug and debrief. If something particularly stressful happens at work, employees should know they have the freedom to go outside for a stroll or run next door for a quick cup of coffee. Some offices even offer a relaxation room with dim lighting and comfortable seating for employees to take a break. Outside of work, encourage your staff to have time every week where they’re completely unplugged. No one should be on call 24/7. In some situations, you may need to stagger when employees are on-call in order to make sure everyone gets a breather.

Can stress cause a heart attack? Yes, but you can help reduce that risk. Promoting stress reduction requires a holistic approach that looks at how your business is managed overall and the personal tools each employee has for handling stress. If you model examples of stress reduction, such as living healthier yourself and unplugging a few times a week, you can encourage your employees to participate in opportunities that lower their stress levels.

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