If you yourself haven’t said it yet, you’ve probably had a friend or two jokingly claim that this presidential election is going to make them have a heart attack. But the truth is, for many voters it may not be a joke at all. The amount of anger in this country, combined with a sharp political divide and hurtful rhetoric coming from both candidates’ camps, is enough to create the perfect storm for patients who are already considered at-risk for a heart attack -- which is about half of Americans.
As we get closer to Election Day, it will not come as a shock to me if we see a corresponding spike in hospital visits from cardiac patients. One hospital on Long Island has already posted a notice to patients informing them that engaging in political discussionsabout either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the facility’s gym is prohibited.
“Due to the fact that we have patients with heart conditions we can not allow debates in the gym,” Southampton Hospital posted on the facility's doors.
Therapists have also instructed their patients who blame difficulty sleeping, irritability and heart palpitations on the election to stop reading the news and to practice yoga instead. I think that advice holds true for an even larger audience, and especially applies to those who have cardiac risk factors like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or a history of heart disease.
In an October study published in the journal Circulation, researchers found an association between anger or emotional upset and the onset of heart attack symptoms within one hour. Experts involved in the study warned that people who are at risk for a heart attack would do best to avoid extreme emotional situations, and to cope by seeking peer support.
I can think of no better way to spend Election Day than by exercising my right to vote and engaging in a healthy, thoughtful conversation with my peers. But we must also have the capacity to realize that when we feel ourselves getting worked up, it will be vital to step back and ask, “Is this really worth risking my life over?” If you don’t think it’s possible to carry on a conversation this way, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether.
To help keep your emotions in check, I can offer some advice:
-Try to enjoy the political process of voting and electing officials
-Do not take the drama involved in this election personally
-Keep negative thoughts out of your head and focus on the positive
-If you’re gutted by the election results, remember there’s another one coming soon
-Communicate with others who share similar passions
-Don’t drink excessively as alcohol can only heighten your emotions
-Make it a night of celebration because remember, we still live in the best country in the world
Most importantly, if you are experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, severe headache or loss of consciousness, do not wait until the last vote is counted. Immediately go to the nearest emergency room or call paramedics for help.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.