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A Season for Screenings

Ladies, The Holidays Are Stressful—But Don’t Push Off Vital Screenings. Help Is On The Way.



‘Tis the season for after-work gatherings, family parties, kids’ events, school concerts—and of course, gift buying and giving. No wonder the season sparks waves of stress as soon as the Halloween candy aisles quickly transition to candy canes and stocking stuffers. Our calendars fill up with all of the extras, we race to create a special, memorable holiday for our families, and our own health (and sanity) are last on the list. Let’s face it, the holidays are not the season for self-care for most women.

 

But with all the pressure comes related health concerns, from high blood pressure to stomach upset, headaches and lack of sleep. Stress increases inflammation, which contributes to many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and an overall decline in health. Plus, it compromises immunity during a time of year when germs run wild.

 

According to the American Psychological Association, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and 75% to 90% of doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

             

It’s no surprise that the top causes of stress in the United States are money and work-related pressures, the association’s survey found. Given the cost of decking the halls and fulfilling Santa wish lists with mounting end-of-year work deadlines, the conditions in December are a perfect storm for stress-induced illness.

 

While you might push off health screenings for “another time,” there are convenient ways to access the care you need and strategies for managing the season’s stress. Following are some of the most common health concerns we find in women that are exacerbated during the holidays.

 



Take Heart

Prolonged stress can escalate blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. And it’s more common than you might realize. Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer from a stroke, and of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled, according to the World Health Organization. The main cause is high blood pressure.

 

Unless you consistently monitor your blood, pressure or visit your primary care doctor, you won’t feel it. High blood pressure is called the silent killer because there are no symptoms. Annual screening is recommended for adults ages 40 and older and those at an increased risk.

 



Move Over, Migraines

Women are more prone to tension headaches and migraines than men, and stress during the holidays exacerbates the situation. Migraines can last from 4 to 72 hours when untreated. They cause severe, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, along with sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smell and touch. Some migraines trigger nausea and vomiting.

 

Don’t write off headaches—there are treatments and strategies for mitigating the pain. Keep a record of migraine attacks to discuss with a health care provider. Note any changes in migraine patterns or how headaches feel.

             

Lifestyle changes can reduce migraine attacks or prevent them from occurring, and there are medications prescribed to treat migraines. We advise women who experience migraines to find a calm environment when they feel one coming on. Turn off the lights, and apply hot or cold compresses to the head and neck.

             

Regular sleep hours and exercise and a nutritious diet can also help stave off migraines. Foods that can trigger migraines include aged cheese, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. Not surprisingly, these are common holiday indulgences.

 



Manage Stress This Holiday Season

Some of the strategies we recommend for controlling migraines are focused on stress-reduction and can benefit us all during the holidays—and year-round, for that matter. Despite a busy calendar and December obligations, take just 15 minutes every day to focus on breathing and engaging in an activity you enjoy—reading, taking a walk, pursuing a hobby.

             

Simplify your life. Must you really attend that holiday party or would staying in and unwinding help you “show up” for friends and family the next day? Consider ways to reduce the time and money spent on holiday shopping. For instance, maybe this year you put everyone in the family’s name into a hat and draw names, giving one gift that you can take your time choosing as opposed to clicking away to fill a shopping cart.

 

Be realistic about what you can really accomplish this month. Keep healthy habits like eating well and exercising. And lean on your direct primary care provider to facilitate convenient screenings on your time, and to offer helpful advice for staying well this season.

 

Cope with holiday stress in a healthy way. Women’s Health Specialist, Courtney Kozek, PA-C can help. She is accepting new patients. Maple Health DPC, a full-service, membership-based primary care practice that offers flexible access, longer appointment times, less waiting and a relationship with a practitioner you know and trust. Access affordable, quality healthcare 24/7. Contact us to learn more.



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