Nurses know all the reasons why heart health is so important. They don’t have to be a cardiac nurse to know that a healthy heart impacts everything from energy levels to brain health.

If you’re trying to take care of your heart by watching what you eat, getting enough exercise, and keeping your stress at a somewhat manageable level, you might be surprised to find your heart health is influenced by things you often just can’t control.

As a nurse, keeping some of these things in mind when talking with patients might be a flag for potential heart health trouble. Knowing a little more about those you treat can give you a broad picture of how events happening in their lives could impact their heart health.

Genetics

People predisposed to heart disease because of their genetics can’t do anything about the genes they were born with. They can take steps to counter conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels that are often handed down through generations. They should also be especially careful of their health, controlling the factors they can (diet and exercise are the big ones) and working with a health team to mitigate the ones they can’t.

Your Job

Believe it or not, a recent American Heart Association report found that some jobs seem to increase a woman’s chances of poor heart health. According to this report, registered nurses are 14 percent more likely to have poor heart health, as do women in other health care roles such as a psychiatry, home health, or social work (36 percent more likely). Using data from approximately 65,000 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative study, researchers found that women in some occupations show signs of poorer heart health than others.

Changing Economic Factors

Economic disparities have historically been linked with poorer health outcomes across regions, races, ages, and genders. But a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a link between a significant drop in income and declines in heart health. Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) study, the cohort showed that an income loss of 50 percent or more led to higher incident cardiovascular disease (CVD). Conversely, rising income levels resulted in decreased CVD.

Hormones

Women lose the potentially heart-protective benefits of estrogen after menopause. Along with aging and the cumulative effects of other habits, this time in a woman’s life might increase her chances of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women take stock of their health around this time and work to make changes that will be good for their hearts.

As you meet with patients and as you consider your own health, taking your heart into consideration is going to have on overall positive impact on your well-being. Understanding how other factors can have a significant impact on heart health is a great starting point for discussions about prevention, testing, monitoring, and lifestyle changes that will make the heart stronger and healthier.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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