Flooding: Beware of increased heart attack, stroke risk

Health
Man grabs chest

You’ve gone down the checklist preparing for the historic flooding that’s expected.
You’ve protected your property and gathered up important papers such as insurance policies. But don’t overlook the toll flooding can take on your health, too. National studies have shown that heart attacks have increased in some areas in the aftermath of major hurricanes and natural disasters.
The stress and trauma after a hurricane or flooding disaster can intensify, which can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease risk, according to the American Heart Association. In addition, heart disease and stroke patients are even more vulnerable to the effects of a disaster, the AHA says.
Stress is one of many factors that can lead to heart disease or a heart attack, but it also can contribute to factors that increase heart disease risk such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The way some try to handle stress – smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, overeating – can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.
Just like they protect their home and belongings, residents can take steps to limit the damage a natural disaster can have on their stress levels and heart health. Julie Pope, director of heart and vascular services at Tidelands Health, offers these tips to help your body handle the stress of flooding:

Safety

Relocate to a safe area, which will reduce stress levels. If you are encouraged to evacuate, stay with relatives or friends outside of the areas projected to flood or go to a shelter in Georgetown County. The county has two shelters: Georgetown High School, 2500 Anthuan Maybank Drive, and Waccamaw Middle School, 247 Wildcat Way in Pawleys Island. (link to more info)

Medications

Make sure to have enough of your medications to last throughout the flood. Even after the rivers crest, it could take days or even a week before the floodwaters recede. Missing medications or taking reduced doses because you don’t have enough on hand can lead to complications.

In case of emergency

Know which medical facilities will be open to provide emergency care if needed. The emergency department at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital will stay open throughout the flood. Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital and most Tidelands Health outpatient locations will be open and operating normally. (add links)

Don't ignore symptoms

If you experience any symptoms such as increased chest pain or heart rhythm abnormalities, call 911 immediately for medical attention. Do not try to drive yourself to care.

Don’t drink alcohol or smoke to cope with stress

These habits can do more harm than good. They can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.
“Exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, not smoking, not drinking too much coffee, enjoying a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress and reduce the risk for heart attack,” Pope says.

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