Election stress is in full effect, and it can take a heavy toll on our heart health. Stressful situations produce a surge of hormones in our bodies that can elevate our blood pressure and heart rate and speed up our breathing.
“This reaction is the normal way the body prepares to deal with a stressful situation,” said Dr. Megan Kamath, a cardiologist at UCLA Health. “However, these symptoms should not be ignored, as stress in even a healthy person can cause significant damage to one’s health.”
In terms of triggering stress or exacerbating preexisting heart conditions, the election is on par with other traumatic episodes. In fact, a recent study showed that hospitalizations for acute cardiovascular disease — like a stroke or heart attack — almost doubled in the two days after the 2016 presidential election.
Some heart-related symptoms to look out for during and after the election include heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath and tremors. “If you are experiencing these symptoms at any time it’s important to seek emergency care,” Kamath said.
It’s also especially important for people with preexisting heart conditions to take caution.
“People who are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease or heart failure are at higher risk for having complications due to stress,” Kamath said. “This is an important time for all of us to listen to our bodies and take action if something doesn’t feel right.”
Tips for managing election-related stress
- Minimize your exposure to news coverage of the election. If you are going to watch election coverage, control the amount of time you watch it.
- Stick to your regular routine. Go to bed at your regular time and do not stay up all night watching election coverage.
- Take regular meditation breaks and practice deep breathing exercises.
- Exercise and eat healthfully.
- Check in with friends and family in your support network who may be vulnerable to stress during this time.