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Don't let election stress lead to heart attack or stroke

Nov 4, 2020

PHOENIX – Can election stress contribute to a heart attack or stroke? Hospitalizations for stroke and heart attack nearly doubled in the two days after the 2016 presidential election, according to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other studies have reported similar findings.

Doctors from Abrazo Health say that while stress and anxiety can contribute to health problems, it’s important to know the risks and ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

“Being emotionally upset or angry can raise blood pressure and heart rate, which changes blood flow and reduces blood supply to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems,” said Dr. Gopi Cherukuri, a cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “And that’s not even taking pandemic-induced stress into consideration.”

Dr. Emun Abdu, medical director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery at the Abrazo Central Campus Comprehensive Stroke Center, noted that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death. A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die.

Both physicians say if you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety from the current political climate, it could be time to take a break from media consumption and engage in healthy activities.

That includes taking time away from the TV, phone and computer, eating healthier foods and limiting alcohol consumption, increasing exercise, and avoiding arguments over politics.

“The combination of a pandemic and elections occurring in the same year has brought new levels of stress affecting many in the community. Don’t be overwhelmed with current events to the point you are delaying health screenings, procedures and emergency care,” said Dr. Abdu.

Heart disease costs the United States more than $200 billion each year including the cost of health care services, medicines and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch for signs of heart attack, including:

  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain between the shoulder blades or in the arm, jaw, chest or upper abdomen.
  • Dizziness or fatigue.
  • Clammy skin or cold sweat.
  • Indigestion or nausea and vomiting.

Stroke is preventable and treatable, according to the CDC. Getting fast treatment is important to preventing death and disability from stroke, which affects more than 795,000 people in the U.S. each year.

Watch for signs of stroke, including:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

Dr. Abdu and Dr. Cherukuri both emphasized, “If your party didn’t win on Election Day, take a deep breath and focus on your health. Above all, remember that your health is more important than politics.”

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