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How to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

How to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

Around 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. This potentially deadly cancer can’t always be prevented but you can significantly lower your risk of developing the disease. Before we dive into how you can lower your risk for oral cancer, let’s take a look at its causes and symptoms.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Physical signs of oral cancer include:

  • A lip or mouth sore that won’t heal
  • A white or reddish patch inside the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside the mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing 

Causes and Risk Factors

Oral cancer occurs when cells inside the mouth experience a mutation in their DNA. This mutation is typically caused by:

  • Tobacco use of any kind
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Excessive sun exposure to the lips
  • Human papillomavirus
  • A weakened immune system

Though factors like a weakened immune system can’t always be helped, most of the risk factors associated with oral cancer can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. The Mayo Clinic suggests making the following lifestyle changes to  lower your risk of developing oral cancer. 

  • Stop or don’t use tobacco of any kind, including vapes, cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Tobacco exposes cells inside the mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or only have a drink in moderation. Alcohol irritates the mouth’s cells making them more vulnerable to cancer. Moderate alcohol use in healthy adults includes no more than one drink a day for women of all ages and men over age 65 and one to two drinks per day for men under age 65. (Note: We do not advise drinking alcohol on any level. However, this information provided by Mayo Clinic is important for those who intend to only drink moderately.)
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure to the lips. Wear a wide-brim hat and sit under an umbrella if you are going to be outdoors for an extended period of time. Don’t forget to pick up an SPF chapstick at your local dollar or drug store for easy lip protection. 
  • See your dentist regularly and follow proper daily oral care guidelines. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. You may also use an oral rinse to boost your cleaning efforts. 

Visiting your dentist regularly helps detect early signs of a problem like oral cancer and keeps your mouth healthy with professional cleanings. If it’s been a while since your last dentist appointment, there’s no better time than right now to schedule your next appointment. Click here to request a visit.

The Most Common Early Signs of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting a child’s social skills, communication, and development. One in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism. In many cases, signs of autism begin to show while children are still babies. 

Today we’re looking at the most common early signs of autism. These signs may not be obvious at first because most autistic babies still sit, crawl, and walk on time. Hitting these milestones makes it easy to overlook other delays in developmental milestones such as body gestures, pretend play, and developing a social language. Subtle differences in children with autism may present before their first birthday and typically become more obvious by 24 months of age. 

Before we share the common early signs of autism, it’s important for parents to know that symptoms vary by each child and your child could show some, all, or none of these signs and still be on the spectrum. Remember that if your gut, or parental instinct, is telling you something is off, it’s a good reason to contact your child’s medical provider and get an answer. 

Common Social Differences

Many babies with autism fail to keep or make very little eye contact, even with parents. They also don’t usually respond to a parent’s smile or facial expression. Other social differences you may observe include:

  • Not looking at objects or events the parents point to
  • Not pointing at objects to direct your attention to them
  • Not bringing objects of personal interest to show to parents
  • Not showing appropriate facial expressions such as a smile when given a toy
  • Not showing concern or empathy for others
  • Being unable to or uninterested in making friends

Communication Differences

In addition to not pointing to things, babies on the autism spectrum often don’t say single words by age 16 months. They may also repeat what others are saying without understanding the meaning of the words. Other communication differences to watch for include:

  • Not responding to their name being called but responds to other sounds like a cat’s meow or a loud horn. 
  • Referring to themselves as “you” and mixing up pronouns
  • Often seems to want to avoid communication
  • Cannot start or continue a conversation
  • Regression in language skills or other social milestones between ages 15 and 24 months

Behavioral Differences

These are some of the most obvious signs of autism. Stereotypical behavioral differences such as rocking back and forth, spinning, twirling fingers, flapping hands, and walking on toes are the most common differences in children with autism. Children with autism may also:

  • Like routines, orders, or rituals and have difficulty with changes or transitioning to a new activity
  • Be obsessed with a few or unusual activities they perform repeatedly
  • Play with parts of toys instead of the whole thing
  • Appear to not feel pain
  • Be or not be sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, textures, or touch. 
  • Have an unusual use of their vision or gaze

If you’re reading this, you may have concerns about your child and autism. Your family medical provider is the best place to start getting answers. Mantachie Rural Healthcare can help. Request an appointment today at 662-282-4226. 

The Warning Signs of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, is a chronic inflammatory lung disease causing obstruction in the lung’s airways. The United States sees more than 3 million cases of COPD each year. COPD is known as a smoker’s disease–90 percent of patients are former smokers. However, nonsmokers can also develop COPD from secondhand smoke and exposure to environmental irritants and pollutants. In rare cases, nonsmokers develop COPD simply because of their DNA. 

Early Warning Signs of COPD

The earliest signs of COPD are so mild that many people chalk up their symptoms to getting older. If left untreated, COPD can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and even cancer. The first and most common symptoms of COPD include:

  • Shortness of breath in everyday activity
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Constant coughing
  • Producing large amounts of mucus
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Developing frequent colds or flu

Though there is no cure for COPD, getting a diagnosis and treatment early is the key to living a healthier, normal, longer life. If your disease is allowed to progress, you’ll soon experience advanced symptoms such as:

  • Swollen legs or fee due to fluid build-up
  • Weight loss
  • Less muscle strength/endurance
  • Morningtime headaches
  • Blue or grey lips or fingernails

In addition to these symptoms, you may also develop chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or cancer. Chronic bronchitis is the most common problem for COPD patients. It’s characterized by a “smoker’s cough”, or a nagging cough with mucus, that is worse in the mornings and during damp, cold weather.

Diagnosis and Treatment

COPD can be diagnosed by your general healthcare provider using your personal and family health history, a physical exam, a blood test, or the Spirometry breath test, the main test for COPD. The Spirometry test finds problems related to COPD before symptoms occur, and it can also help determine the stage of the disease. A chest x-ray may also be performed to rule out other possible causes of symptoms such as pneumonia. 

Treatment for COPD begins with quitting smoking. Simply quitting smoking can help slow or stop damage to the lungs from COPD. Following a healthy diet and exercise plan (walking is the best exercise for COPD) can also improve symptoms. In addition to these lifestyle changes, your doctor may also prescribe long-acting and short-acting bronchodilators to treat your symptoms. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed occasionally when symptoms worsen and antibiotics may also be prescribed for infections. People with COPD are more prone to lung infections than those without the disease. 

Patients with advanced stages of COPD are often prescribed oxygen therapy to help them stay active without feeling tired or out of breath. Oxygen therapy also protects the brain, heart, and other organs. In more serious cases, surgery such as a bullectomy or lung volume reduction may be necessary. These procedures remove the diseased part of the lung, allowing healthy tissue to perform better and make breathing easier. Patients with extreme cases may require lung transplant surgery for survival. 

As you can see, COPD is a very serious disease that can also be prevented or slowed in most cases. The providers at Mantachie Rural Healthcare can help you stop smoking and also diagnose COPD if you are showing symptoms. To make an appointment with one of our providers, dial 662-282-4226.

What is Social Pain and Why It’s More Common Than Ever

Social pain isn’t a term one hears often. But in the last year, the number of people suffering from social pain is greater than ever due to the effects of the pandemic. Social distancing, unexpected deaths from covid-19, canceled events and plans, and political unrest are just a few contributors to the increased number of people experiencing social pain. 

What is Social Pain?

Social pain refers to the painful emotions caused by situations involving other people. Emotions include but are not limited to feeling rejected, alone, ostracized, devalued, abandoned, disconnected, and grief. A study by the University of Sao Paulo suggests the pandemic has caused a substantial spike in social pain. Social pain is often a reaction to the loss of relationships by way of rejection, abandonment, moving away, death, etc. Social distancing and quarantining has increased the negative emotions associated with social pain due to the lack of contact with people whose relationships we value. 

The Benefit of Social Pain

Like physical pain, the function of social pain is to alert us to threats to our social well-being. In turn, these emotions will deter us from doing things that undermine our relationships. Social pain often leads us to make more effort to maintain intact relationships.

How to Cope with Social Pain

Social pain is not unmanageable. In fact, most steps taken to treat these negative emotions are done at home. The first step to managing social pain is to accept that what you are feeling is real. These feelings are completely normal but do not indicate something is wrong with you. However, these emotions may mean your social connections are not where you want them to be. 

Managing your thoughts is the next step. Learning to train your thoughts away from the source of your pain keeps you from wallowing in your feelings. Find an interesting distraction like a hobby, music, reading, working out, or even watching a compelling movie or television show. Practicing meditation is another way to train your mind to control your thoughts. 

Social pain responds to sensorial experiences which means doing something as simple as moving your body or resting can take your mind off your pain. Looking at beautiful and colorful things, listening to music, taking a warm bath or shower, and even grabbing a hug from a loved one or pet living in your home can ease feelings of social pain. 

Finding ways to connect with others is also essential. The more personal and direct the communication is, the better it works to treat social pain. Video chats and phone calls work best but email and texts are better than nothing at all. Reminiscing with old photos, letters, or messages as well as thinking about positive memories of your loved one can also take away negative feelings. 

Of course, if your social pain lasts longer than two weeks or more with no relief, seek help from your healthcare provider. Mantachie Rural Health Care provides both medical and mental health care and can help you get over the hump of social pain. Click here to request an appointment now. 

Delicious Foods to Protect Your Health Over 50

Aging isn’t for the faint of heart. Between sagging skin and higher risks of chronic health conditions, our bodies are fighting more than time once we click past the half-century mark. But you still have a lot of life to live and adventures to take, so buckle up for a drive through some delicious food territory that will tickle your taste buds and keep your mind and body active for decades to come.

Fish

Let’s start with something versatile and delicious: fish! Particularly fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring and farmed trout. Try to eat fish at least twice a week. These main dishes are filled with DHA, which is good for your brain. If you aren’t a fish fan, other great sources of DHA include walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seed. 

Protein

Keeping on the theme of main dishes, protein helps you fight muscle and bone loss, but don’t rely on processed meats or too many protein powders. Eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and poultry provide your body with superior nutrition without the extra salt and additives that could increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. Varying your protein options keeps you from getting bored with your food choices and reduces the chances you’ll slip back those processed easy foods.

Calcium

Sure milk and cheese are yummy ways to reach your goal of 1200 milligrams of calcium per day, but why limit yourself? Yogurt, rice, soy drinks, fortified orange juice, tofu, and broccoli can help you reach your goal too. Did you know cooked broccoli releases even more health benefits for your body? Roast some in the oven, cook it in a sauce, or throw it on the grill for a different take on this green veggie.

Fruit

What goes better with yogurt, cubed cheese, or a smoothie than your favorite fruits. Every fruit offers unique benefits to your health. Red fruits like watermelon and strawberries are rich in lycopene which could lower your risk of cancer and may protect you against strokes. Blueberries hit everyone’s “must eat” list because they are rich in vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants like anthocyanin and compounds that lower inflammation. Citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect you against some cancers. You’ll receive the most benefit from eating all these fruits fresh instead of cooked into pastries.

Cabbage and Cruciferous Vegetables

Our immune health has taken a front seat in recent months, and nothing could be better for bolstering your immune system than foods in the cabbage family. Don’t like cabbage itself? No problem. This family includes a wide variety of vegetables such as kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and radishes as well as maybe less known choices such as arugula, bok choy, horseradish, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi. Many of these also fall into the “dark leafy green” category which means they do double duty to protect your eyes, memory, and thinking. Look for creative ways to cook any of these vegetables including roasting them, eating them in salads, or mixing them into other dishes.

Fiber and Whole Grains

So far we’ve built a pretty tasty plate with fish, fruit, cheese, and some roasted veggies, but you still need to add fiber and whole grains to your diet. Many of the foods we’ve already mentioned include much of the fiber you need, but as you age you need more fiber than before. Men over 50 should aim for 30 grams of fiber a day, and women should aim for 21 grams. Fiber not only helps keep your digestive system regular, but it lowers cholesterol, helps manage your blood sugar, and keeps your weight healthy. Whole grains provide another great source of fiber plus they add B-6 and folate to keep your brain healthy. You’re not limited to whole wheat bread, though. Quinoa, wheat berries, and whole-wheat couscous can add variety to your diet.

Spice It Up

Spices not only add delicious flavor to your foods, but they provide benefits all on their own. As you age, your sense of taste and smell change. You’re more likely to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter foods first, which may drive you to oversalt foods or lean toward sweets instead. You can up the flavor of your foods with non-salt spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, and garlic. 

Water

As you age, you won’t notice your thirst as often as you once did. This leads senior adults to be more vulnerable to dehydration. Aim to drink eight 8-ounce cups of water a day. Add fruit juice, tea, soup, and those fruits and vegetables with high water content to help you reach your goal if needed. 

Finding the right mix of nutritious, yummy foods to meet your unique dietary needs can be a challenge, especially if you have high blood pressure or diabetes. We have a registered dietcian, Erica Witcher, on our staff. When you meet with our doctor or nurse practitioners, her services are included with your visit at no additional charge. Request your appointment with both our nurse practitioner and dietitian by calling (662) 282-4226.

Could ‘COVID Tongue’ Be Latest Unexpected Symptom of Virus?

Keeping track of all the possible symptoms of COVID-19 is a full-time job. One British scientist claims at least 20% of his patients experience less common symptoms that aren’t officially recognized by the CDC. And we all know at least one person who experienced no symptoms at all. A Spanish study recently found 10% of patients with COVID also had some type of oral health problems such as mouth sores or ulcers. The term “COVID tongue” has been used to describe this uncommon issue, but whether or not it’s actually associated with the virus is debatable.

First, the Known COVID Symptoms

Let’s talk about what we know. The most commonly recognized symptoms of COVID-19 typically show up 2-14 days after exposure and include: 

• Fever or chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue

• Muscle or body aches

• Headache

• New loss of taste or smell

• Sore throat

•Congestion or runny nose

•Nausea or vomiting

•Diarrhea

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, most symptomatic patients experience at least one of these problems, which usually prompts them to be tested for the virus. 

COVID Tongue: Is It Real?

Doctors don’t argue that mouth sores or a swollen, discolored tongue may be part of your struggle in a COVID-19 infection, but whether it’s a symptom of the virus remains to be seen. Most doctors agree you won’t typically experience only oral symptoms. 

Some medical providers speculate that oral symptoms could be caused by steroids and other medications prescribed to combat the virus which may lead the way for a thrush infection. The tongue also has a lot of ACE2 receptors, which are targeted by the COVID-19 virus in the lungs. So it’s possible the virus could be present in the mouth as well. Another theory is that COVID-19 activates another virus like the herpes simplex virus which results in mouth ulcers.

On the other hand, oral symptoms could be the result of allergies, irritants, another infection or something you ate.

How to Protect Your Oral Health

Whether you have COVID-19 or not, caring for your oral health is never the wrong answer. Brushing and flossing regularly as well as eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water helps keep your mouth healthy whether we’re in a pandemic or not. It may also protect your mouth and teeth from unwanted damage should you find yourself with a COVID infection. And, as a reminder, you can continue to protect your overall health by not socializing in large groups, wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and remaining socially distanced.

If you’re experiencing oral health problems without any other symptoms of COVID-19, make an appointment with our dental clinic. Any new mouth sores should be treated by your dentist. If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, we can help you find the right diagnosis and create a treatment plan. Request an appointment online, or call our office at (662) 282-4226 . 

Foods That Help You Focus

Brain food. We’ve all heard the phrase. But is brain food a real thing? Can you improve your brain’s overall ability to think, focus, and recall memory with your diet? The short answer is yes, you can! Turns out a number of foods and beverages can improve your brain health and provide other health benefits as well. 

Caffeine and Glucose Offer Brain Power in Limited Moderation

Believe it or not, caffeine and sugar glucose–not table sugar, but naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruits and vegetables–are brain-powering foods as long as you have them in limited moderation. A cup of coffee helps you be more alert while a glass of orange juice or other fruit juice offers a quick brain boost. Limiting the amount of caffeine and sugar is essential–too much of either can impair your memory and concentration. 

Breakfast is Key

Many studies have proven that people who eat a healthy breakfast perform better overall than those who don’t eat breakfast. A good, brain-powering breakfast consists of high fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruit. Healthy proteins are also encouraged but don’t think any breakfast will do. Dining on high-calorie breakfast meals can actually hinder your concentration. 

Fish = Good for Your Heart and Mind

Fish is a superfood for good reason. The poultry of the sea is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that are vital to both your brain and heart health. In fact, eating two servings of fish a week can lower your risk of dementia and stroke, and other age-related conditions. 

Nuts, Seeds, and Dark Chocolate for Brain-Healthy Snacks

Need a quick pick-me-up for the afternoon lag? Reach for a handful of nuts or an ounce of dark chocolate. Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E while dark chocolate is full of brain-enhancing antioxidants. Like caffeine and natural sugar, eat these foods in strict moderation. Just one ounce of each of these foods per day is all you need to improve your brain health.

Don’t Forget the Whole Grains and Avocado

If guacamole is a lunchtime favorite, you’re in luck. Fruits like avocados improve blood flow, which improves all other functions in your body including the brain. Along with whole grains, avocados lower your risk of heart disease and decrease bad cholesterol as well, making them both superfoods you should include in your regular or daily diet. 

Brain-Protecting Blueberries

Need another superfruit to add to your diet? Blueberries may just be the most super of all the superfoods. This tiny round fruit may protect the brain from damage from free radicals–the kind of damage that leads to dementia and other age-related conditions. Blueberries may also reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and similar diseases. 

Bagel Up for a Big Day

Lox and bagel sandwiches may not be a thing here in the South but head anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line and you’ll find this breakfast meal in every bakery or restaurant that sells a bagel. A “lox” is a brined salmon fillet. As it happens, experts recommend preparing for a big day by eating a whole-grain bagel with salmon for breakfast and washing it down with a glass of juice and cup of coffee for maximum brain power. Perhaps it’s time to add lox and bagel sandwiches to a Southern menu near you!

As always, consult with your provider or dietitian before beginning a new diet. Want to get a better check on your brain health? The new year is a great time to schedule your annual wellness visit. Click here to request an appointment now. 

The Long-Term Effects of Covid-19

Most survivors of Covid-19 recover in a few weeks. An estimated 30% of patients, however, continue to experience side effects from Covid-19 long after the acute illness is gone. Even those with mild cases of the disease are susceptible to long-term effects, although older people and those with serious medical conditions are most likely to suffer extended symptoms. People with long-lasting effects of Covid-19 may refer to themselves as “long-haulers” or refer to their symptoms as “long covid”.

Common Long-Term Symptoms

The most common long-term symptoms of covid are fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and joint or chest pain. Other less common symptoms reported by patients include:

  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Pounding or fast heartbeat
  • Problems with memory, concentration, and sleep
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Skin rash or hair loss

Other Long-Term Symptoms

In addition to these symptoms, Covid-19 can cause lasting damage to the lungs, heart, or brain. The virus can cause significant damage to the heart muscle resulting in an increased risk of heart failure or complications. Pneumonia associated with this virus can also damage the alveoli, tiny air sacs in the lungs that help us breathe, leading to breathing problems. Covid has also led to the development of strokes, seizures, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition causing temporary paralysis. These serious conditions can even affect young people with the virus. 

Blood clots are another serious long-term complication of Covid-19. Experts believe small blood clots are the likely culprit of covid-related heart problems while large blood clots can damage the lungs, legs, liver, and kidneys. Covid-19 is also linked to weakened blood vessels that leak and develop problems for the liver and kidneys. 

Covid-19 is also linked to problems with mood and fatigue, including the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition in which fatigue symptoms worsen with physical activity or exercise and are not relieved with rest. Some patients also report depression and other mood problems following a bout of covid.

Although all these symptoms are serious, the World Health Organization (WHO) says patients experiencing long-covid are not contagious. 

As you can see, Covid-19 can lead to significant and even deadly long-term effects, and anyone can become susceptible to these lingering immune responses. The best ways to ensure you and your loved ones don’t suffer from the effects of covid is to continue practicing social distancing, wash or sanitize hands often, and wear a mask in public places. And now that a vaccine is available, we encourage you and your family to get immunized as soon as the vaccine is available to your age group. 

If you are experiencing symptoms related to Covid-19, contact your Mantachie Rural Health Care provider immediately to schedule an appointment and self-quarantine until your visit. If you are in need of an appointment, click here to contact us now. 

Foods That Cleanse the Arteries

What you eat matters, especially when it comes to your body’s potential for a heart attack. Red meat is notoriously linked to clogged arteries or atherosclerosis. Unhealthy fats like saturated fat and trans fat as well as sugar are also linked to an increase for a heart attack. 

But what about foods that lower your risk of a heart attack? Do they exist? We’ve got great news. Yes! You can cleanse your arteries and improve your heart health by changing your diet to include heart-healthy superfoods. 

You Can’t Go Wrong with Mediterranean

There’s a reason why the Mediterranean diet is popular with all health experts and has outlived the plethora of fad diets that have emerged over the years. The Mediterranean diet is actually good for everyone, even those on special diets because the recommended foods are practically the healthiest Earth has to offer. The diet is centered around plant-based foods including fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains. Seafood, dairy, poultry, and eggs are added in moderation. Unhealthy fats and sugar are avoided although red meat is allowed on a limited occasion. 

Eat the Rainbow

Skittles tells us to taste the rainbow, but we encourage you to eat the whole rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables. A heart-healthy plate consists largely of fruits and veggies in a rainbow of colors with limitations to starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes. 

Go Nuts

Nuts are the perfect healthy snack to get you through the afternoon slowdown. They’ll give you a boost of energy, and they’re good for your heart, too. Just don’t go too crazy. An ounce of nuts a day is all you need. 

Fishing for Clean Arteries

Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, and herring are perfect when you want a taste of meat on your plate. You can enjoy two servings of fish a week. 

Beans and Legumes

Beans, lentils, and peas are an essential part of a heart-healthy diet. They contain proteins, vitamins, and minerals, which is why they are a great alternative to meat for vegans and vegetarians. 

Don’t Forget the Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the go-to cooking oil and salad dressing for those following a heart-healthy diet. Toss out the ranch dressing and vegetable oil and pick up this versatile food instead. 

Whole Grains

Grains should be consumed in their whole, unprocessed form, according to health and nutrition experts. Whole grains have more fiber than processed grains, and they can also help balance blood glucose levels. 

A heart-healthy diet works best in conjunction with a heart-healthy lifestyle which includes daily exercise or activity and refraining from unhealthy habits like smoking. As always, consult with your provider before beginning a new diet. 

Annual wellness visits also lower your risk of a heart attack by giving your provider a chance to perform key tests that detect silent signs of a heart problem. To request your annual exam, click here. 

Can the Flu Increase Your Chances of Heart Attack or Stroke?

Does the flu impact your risk of a heart attack or stroke? That’s the question researchers sought to answer in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Heart attacks and strokes increase during the winter months, which also coincides with flu season. Researchers suspected a link between the viral illness and the two deadly conditions. The results of their study confirmed their suspicions.

The flu increases the risk of both a heart attack and a stroke, though the timeline in which the conditions typically occur differ. Heart attacks are more likely to occur within the first 7-14 days of onset of acute flu illness while a stroke can still occur up to 30 days following the illness. The study did not share if participants had the flu vaccine. However, other research in the study found that incidences of heart attacks and strokes following the flu were lower in years in which the vaccine’s success rate was higher. 

What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

The study did not reveal exactly what causes the increased risk for stroke or heart attack. It’s safe to assume that if you are already at a higher risk for either condition, you need to take caution. The first step you can take is to get this year’s flu vaccine if you haven’t already. Although the flu vaccine doesn’t always prevent the virus it can shorten illness time and decrease the severity of sickness. 

If you do develop flu-like illness, seek a proper diagnosis and treatment from your provider as soon as possible. If you get sick when your provider is unavailable, visit an urgent care to get immediate treatment then schedule a follow-up with your regular provider as soon as possible. Keep all of your appointments with your provider during your illness and take note of any new symptoms, particularly those that occur before a heart attack or stroke. If you begin to notice these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Do not wait to get help. 

You can also prevent the flu and a subsequent heart attack or stroke by continuing to follow the social distancing guidelines in place for coronavirus. The possibility of developing both the flu and coronavirus at the same time is real and only increases your risk of serious illness or even death. We encourage those at a higher risk to continue to stay home until after the flu season. 

Many signs pointing to an increased risk for heart attack or stroke are silent and can only be detected by a provider. Your annual wellness visit is the best time for your Mantachie Rural Health Care provider to determine your risks and develop an action plan. Click here to request your annual exam today. 


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