Despite some progress in education and prevention efforts, stroke remains the fourth leading cause of death among Americans.
However, strokes don’t occur at the same rate all year long. In fact, they’re much more common during the holiday season. Of the nearly 800,000 strokes in the United States each year, more occur between November and February than during any other period of the same duration. Experts suspect that weather and festivities each play a significant role in that.
Why the Holidays Escalate the Risk of Stroke
Strokes have many causes, and stress ranks high among them. Studies show that periods of prolonged stress precipitate cardiac events, including heart attacks and stroke. That’s because stress isn’t only an emotion — it takes a profound physical toll on your body, prompting worrisome physiological changes that can include a rise in blood pressure.
Likewise, studies show that the holiday season is our most stressful time of the year. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, doubled to-do lists, and endless encounters with distant family all take their toll.
The holidays are no friends to diets, either. You may have heard your local radio station playing a familiar parody last month, “It’s the Most Fattening Time of the Year.” While a few heavy meals are unlikely to prove problematic on their own, an entire season of high-fat, high-sugar, high-cholesterol consumption can endanger those who are already at risk.
Even After the Holidays, the Winter Weather Can Cause Strokes
While some studies have pinpointed an increase in stroke between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, most studies assign the heightened risk to the winter season in general. Changes in daylight and climate can impact our physical health too. Consider the following:
- Cold temperatures put extra strain on the heart, especially during outdoor exertion.
- Cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure.
- Blood is more likely to clot in cold weather.
- Changes in sunrise time can alter your body’s circadian rhythm. The same is true of the temporal shift that accompanies the end of Daylight Saving Time in November.
Holidays and Heart Attacks
Strokes aren’t the only yuletide danger. Heart attacks increase at about the same rate between November and March. That’s because strokes and heart attacks are often caused by the same conditions — poor health, increased blood pressure, blood clots, and heart strain.
Hospitals Are Often Understaffed During the Holidays
Unfortunately, the increase in cardiac and cerebral events during the holiday season is accompanied by reduced staffing in many of our country’s hospitals.
Experts believe that short-staffed and distracted emergency rooms may be an important factor in the increased fatalities observed in heart attack and stroke victims during the winter.
Doctors Have a Duty to Treat Strokes Immediately
With immediate and effective treatment, the impact of a heart attack or a stroke can be significantly minimized. You can’t do it on your own, though.
Modern medical science empowers doctors to save many stroke victims’ lives, but they often fail to diagnose the stroke in time. Decreased hospital staffing only exacerbates that problem.
If you or someone you love suffered a stroke this holiday season and the hospital failed to take immediate action to prevent permanent harm, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. The Miami stroke malpractice attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help. Contact us today.