No more stress


Women are regarded as champions of multitasking — meeting deadlines on projects, developing solutions to bottlenecks, managing a critical deadline over the phone while packing the family’s lunch boxes, checking their child’s homework while ensuring the domestic help doesn’t miss a spot behind the couch, and reminding their spouses of important last dates.

They are also going to bed late, struggling to get up early, missing breakfast, skipping exercise only to fulfill the list of responsibilities that looms large over their days. But these modern women are increasingly falling prey to serious health risks.

‘State of the Indian Heart’, an analysis of trends in cardiac diseases conducted by the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute over the last 25 years, revealed some startling facts. Numbers indicate an alarming rise in cardiovascular diseases across age groups. Of these is the worrying trend of cardiac diseases in women, with the percentage of women undergoing coronary artery bypass surgeries increasing from roughly six per cent in the late eighties and early nineties to approximately 15 per cent in the past three to four years. This amounts to a significant 150 per cent rise in numbers.

Great expectations

Drastic changes in lifestyles, eating habits, lack of physical activity are risk factors
common to both men and women. But managing multiple responsibilities and
expectations puts women under considerable stress. Doing the balancing act leads to women doing not one, but two jobs a day. The medical fraternity has started terming this as ‘dual role stress’.

An excess of pressure from all sides causes women to feel fatigued and often leads to anxiety and depression. This combination of physical and psychological factors is responsible for several health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, rise in cholesterol levels, thyroid imbalance, menstrual disturbances and eventually, heart disease.

This worrisome situation not only indicates an impending health crisis in women, but also sounds the alarm bells for the health of the family as a whole. With cardiovascular diseases and other co-morbidities making their appearance during the child-bearing age, doctors are also seeing a rise in pregnancy complications, affecting the health of the foetus and the newborn. But this is not to say that women must give up one or the other aspect of their lives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Experience has taught us that women are brilliant professionals, sometimes even better than their male counterparts at problem-solving and project management. What we need is for workplaces and families to build a support mechanism that will enable women to function efficiently without putting needless stress on them. Some corporates have already shown the way in terms of better talent planning, flexible and rationalised working hours, office creche and concierge services. More organisations need to integrate employee-friendly policies to improve work processes and cultures. Healthy employees lead to better productivity and lower costs, both for the employer and employee.

Changes at home are, in fact, easier and quicker to implement. Families must value women’s financial independence and intellectual fulfillment by supporting their professional ambitions. Spouses, in-laws and even older children can nurture their female family members by helping out with simple but time-consuming chores, freeing up some part of the day for them. They must also participate in women’s health by encouraging them to eat healthy, exercise and rest, along with reminding them to get preventive health checks every year. Women are wonderful partners in our progress. And they need just as much care as everyone else at home. So, have you done your bit for the women in your life today?

(The author is chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi)

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