It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It can also be one of the most stressful – not just on your wallet, but on your body as well. In fact, according to a University of California-San Diego study, cardiac deaths rise nearly 5% on December 25, 26th and January 1st. Deaths from other causes also rise at that time of the year, but not nearly as much. While there are a lot of factors that can go into a cardiac death, stress is certainly an instigator that can lead to a stroke, possibly leading to cardiac death.
Wait… Back Up… How does this happen?
Biologically, the brain triggers chemicals during stressful events to help us deal. No matter what kind of stress, there are two primary chemicals: 1) Cortisol and 2) Adrenaline. Cortisol is a hormone that forces our body to retain water and sodium to help keep blood pressure up, preparing us to have the strength to run or fight. Similarly, adrenaline causes our heart rate and blood pressure to rise to pump blood to vital organs.
There are two kinds of stroke: Hemorrhagic (brain bleed)and Ischemic (blocked arteries). Both are serious medical concerns, so understanding the potential causes is one step towards prevention.
By living in a chronic or high state of stress (hello holidays!) or by not getting enough sleep, you have constant raised levels of cortisol, retaining salt and increasing blood pressure. Blood vessels can burst if they’re weakened, the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue and not to the brain – and you have a hemorrhagic stroke.
Conversely, eating poorly (hello again holidays!) can lead to cholesterol buildup, blocking blood flow in the arteries which can trigger an ischemic stroke.
We’re not trying to be the doom and gloom guy here… With Christmas fast approaching, we wanted to take a moment to remind you that while stress during the holidays is inevitable, there are a lot of things you can do to lower your stroke risks.
- Enjoy food and alcohol – in moderation! Between food and alcohol, overindulgence is rampant. Alcohol can irritate the heart muscle and cause atrial fibrillation, increasing stroke risk. Cholesterol can block blood vessels, causing an ischemic stroke.
- Five-minute meditation. It helps, seriously. And five minutes a day for yourself can help you feel less stressed about the day, let things go and redirect yourself to make you feel better. You can even do this during a walk. Exercise plus meditation!
- Be vigilant with medication. According to a Mayo Clinic news release on avoiding heart attacks and strokes during the holidays, “varying schedules, additional activities and travel can lead to lapses in the way you take medication during the holidays.” So, remember your medications – especially if you are on blood thinners or blood pressure pills.
- Know the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke – especially if you are at a higher risk.
Heart attack: Chest pain, upper body pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, sweating, nausea and heart palpitations
Stroke: Trouble with speech, paralysis of face, arm, or leg – especially if it’s just on one side, headache, trouble with vision or balance. See our SAVES blog!
Remember, a stroke can happen for a number of reasons; you can’t blame stress from your crazy Uncle Al for your Christmas-time stroke. If you think that you or someone you love is having a stroke, get to the emergency room as quickly as possible! Strokes can often be fully treatable and recoverable if medication is properly administered.
For more information on how our doctors can be at your stroke patient’s bedside via telemedicine cart in an average of 4 to 6 minutes, contact us at 1-866-785-7769.
Happy Holidays from TeleSpecialists!