The holidays are packed with family, food, cocktails – and more strokes than at any other time of the year. In fact, of the nearly 800,000 stokes in the United States each year, more occur between November and February than during any other 4-month span.
What are the factors leading to this significant uptick in first-time and subsequent strokes? Dr. Tanquilut explains here – and also details how to avoid a holiday stroke.
Stress isn’t just an emotion. Stress takes a physical toll on your body prompting physiological changes that cause a rise in blood pressure. Studies show that periods of prolonged stress can cause strokes and other health events such as heart attacks. The holidays can be very stressful for many reasons – time crunches, financial concerns and family dynamics.
What to do? Go ahead and say “no” to commitments that you don’t enjoy and just aren’t necessary for a happy holiday season. Plan a reasonable, comfortable budget for gift-giving and celebrations and stay within it. Pick your battles and avoid getting aggravated over the small stuff. Don’t worry if Aunt is bringing the “right” casserole. Don’t sit next to Uncle with strident, opposing political views. When your sister is snippy, take a big, deep, cleansing breath and move on. Focus on the positive. Amidst the chaos, enjoy the simple, pleasant holiday moments.
Tis the season for over indulgence! Inevitably, you’ll be tempted with sugary, empty-calorie treats wherever you go. Overeating means increased blood pressure, which will increase your risk of stroke.
What to do? Eat real, unprocessed foods as much as possible – whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. When over-rich food is urged on you by friends and family, take a few small polite bites and then abandon your plate. Eat a well-balanced meal before going to events and parties you know will be problematic.
Research shows that drinking a large amount of alcohol greatly increases your risk of stroke. Alcohol raises your blood pressure and, if you have diabetes, it will affect your blood sugar both in the short term and the long term. Alcohol also worsens stress, mood swings and depression.
What to do? Avoid alcohol as much as possible and never mix alcohol with energy drinks. For every beer, wine or cocktail you have, drink a glass of water.
Smoking not only increases your risk of stroke, but studies show tobacco products and nicotine cut about 10 years from your lifespan. Smoking, tobacco and nicotine constrict and narrow your vascular system, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. They also deprive your blood of oxygen, and increase your risk of blood clots.
What to do? To successfully stop smoking, smokers need to address both the addiction and the habits that go along with it. Contact our office and make an appointment to discuss smoking cessation. With the right plan, any smoker can kick the addiction—even if you’ve tried and failed multiple times before.
At the holidays, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy exercise schedule. However, you can reduce your risk of stroke by over 25% when you engage in moderate activity – walking briskly, cycling or swimming – for 30 minutes five days a week.
What to do? Get the right amount of exercise every day by simply walking 10 minutes after each meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Get loved ones involved and make it a family affair. BONUS – exercise will also dramatically reduce your stress.
Poor sleep and sleep disturbances are reported to play a role in your risk for stroke by putting stress on your vascular system.
What to do? Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Set aside an hour to “wind down” to help your body prepare to enter the sleep state. Avoid electronics and noisy environments during this hour and read a book or enjoy the crackle of the fireplace instead.
If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, Think “FAST.” Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurred and Time – every second counts, so call 911 immediately.
Strokes are the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of people suffer life-changing mobility disabilities even when a stroke is not fatal.
Studies show that 80% of strokes can be prevented. By following Dr. Tanquilut’s advice around the holidays and all year long, you’ll reduce your stroke risk and enjoy a happy, healthy holiday!
Concerned about your stroke risk? Contact our office by replying to this email, calling 815-824-4406 or clicking here to make an appointment. We’ll perform a stroke screening and evaluation!