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Could Election Day Really Affect Your Health?

Romney-Obama photo

Tomorrow’s Election Day not only brings with it the opportunity to cast your ballot, but also health risks that range from traffic accidents to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, says top cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall.

However, there are precautions that people should take, especially those who are heavily invested in the outcome of today’s tight Presidential race, renowned cardiac specialist Chauncey Crandall, M.D. told Newsmax Health.

“This is an unusually tight race between Governor Romney and President Obama– and emotions are running very high. People are at high stress, and at risk, no matter whether their candidate wins or loses,” said Dr. Crandall.

With more people on the road heading to the polls, each Election Day brings a spike in traffic accidents. In fact, research done over 32 years revealed a consistent 18 percent increase in the number of motor vehicle deaths on voting day, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Not only that, but 800 more people suffered disabling injuries, far more than those on occasions known for drinking and driving, like New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, said the researchers, who blame the increase on distracted drivers.

But the risk doesn’t stop once you reach your polling place. “Voting can be very frustrating, especially in places like Florida, where we have a very long ballot, and we’ll probably have long lines. People miss meals, and taking their medication,” he noted. “Also, the ballot runs several pages long, which can be confusing for elderly people, and even for some younger people as well,” added Dr. Crandall, who is the director of preventative cardiology at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach County, FL.

Further more, a new study shows that even just the act of voting itself leads to heightened levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood, which raises heart rate, blood pressure, and is blamed for a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke.

But, for most voters, the close of the polls means that stress is just getting started, and there is the inevitable wait while the vote is tallied which, given the tightness of the race, may run extra long this year, and the inevitable announcement of the winners and the losers.

“We’ve had such heightened stress this year, from the barrage of negative ads to the continual polling, that everyone, no matter what their side, is bound to take some sort of an emotional hit,” Dr. Crandall noted.

“Those people whose candidates won are apt to be out celebrating tonight, and eating and drinking too much could land them in the hospital, much like the heart attack patients I see during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” said Dr. Crandall. On the other hand, people whose candidate’s lost are apt to fall into an even deeper-than-usual post-election depression this year. “Depression is a major risk factor for heart disease,” notes Dr. Crandall, adding, “So no matter whether your celebrating, or you’re depressed, you can still be at risk,” he noted.

Here are some tips for a safe Election Day:

  • Make sure you know where your polling place is located.
  • Don’t forget your photo ID
  • Allow yourself ample time to get to the polls.
  • Make sure you’ve eaten well before hand.
  • Bring a snack with you.
  • Don’t become dehydrated.
  • Remember to take any medications you may need.
  • Stay calm; avoid talking politics while you’re in line.
  • When celebrating, don’t overindulge in food or alcohol.
  • If your candidate loses, and you find yourself in a depression that lingers, seek help from a counselor or your clergy.

By Charlotte Libov

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