2020’s been tough on everyone. But for people with high blood pressure, it’s been one stress test after another. Worries over the pandemic, the economy, the lockdown — separation from friends and family.

Now come the elections. Basically the Super Bowl of stress. A whole season of intensity crammed into one long day. Voting with the virus on the rise. Long lines. The inevitable technological glitches. Waiting for the results. A contest so close, we might not know the outcome when we go to bed — possibly not for days afterward. Maybe even legal challenges and recounts.

No one’s going to be walking around with a blood pressure monitor at their side, but you don’t need to. If you start feeling tense, find yourself muttering at your screen, that’s stress. One of the worst things for BP.

So, we’ve put together this manual to help you avoid it. Starting tonight. Get some sleep. It’s free and one of the best medicines there is. We’ll all need it. Then tomorrow, go vote. Participate. Follow. Enjoy democracy in action. But most importantly, come out well on the other side.


ELECTION DAY

Voting

Everyone’s tired of masks and distancing, but high BP puts you at particular risk for rough outcomes if you get the virus. So please: mask up and stay apart.

Plan for long lines. Charge your phone. Draw up a Playlist that’ll keep you calm, rather keep your foot tapping. And take a snack that’ll keep your spirits up without doing the same for your BP. Like unsalted nuts, an orange or some other piece of fruit.

Lastly: if you have high BP and are taking medication or know someone who does/is, this is no time to skip it. The same goes for 120/Life. You’re about to get behind the wheel of your car and merge with highway traffic. We are your seat belt.

Watching the returns

Election Night is a big deal, but it’s also spectator sport. And it’s probably going to go on for a while, so — like Thanksgiving Day — pace yourself.

What to eat

Long-time BP watchers know it: No matter what’s on your menu, watch the salt. It tastes great, but nothing’s harder on the heart. One large bag of potato chips has more sodium than your entire daily allotment, and it goes fast. Canned soup, cold cuts, hot dogs and fast foods are just as sneaky. Fortunately, there are all kinds of tasty eats that aren’t.

Snacks

  • Popcorn’s fine, just stay away from salt and butter.
  • Yogurt, skim or 1%
  • Veggie tray: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, red/yellow peppers, broccoli florets. Low-fat yogurt for dipping
  • Low-salt/low-fat cheese
  • Low-salt, ready to eat cereal
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Berries (combine with yogurt & chill for a knock-out parfait)

Dinner

  • Think fish: salmon
  • Green salad
  • Maybe even combine them: a niçoise salad looks beautiful and tastes great.

For other ideas (trust us, you’re not going to go hungry) download our free ebook or check our Circulatory Blog.

What to drink

So—colas, coffee, tea, energy drinks: we love them for the taste and the boost, but the caffeine also boosts our blood pressure. Too much leaves us feeling jumpy. On Election Night, you’ll be jumpy enough as it is. Leave the energy drinks in the fridge and save the coffee for Wednesday morning. Instead, consider something like seltzer with lime. Or mix seltzer with fruit juices like tart cherry or cranberry. They do a great job of lowering BP naturally, which is why we put them in every bottle of 120/Life.

Exercise

We don’t know what the weather will be where you are, but plan to get 30 minutes of good exercise before sitting down and plugging. Enough to get your heart rate up. This is a great stress reliever and will set you up for a long night of sitting.

Take regular breaks

Just like on long plane flights, get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so. Go to the window, stretch, take the dog for a quick walk, do a few deep knee bends. Just enough to keep the blood flowing and ward off cramps, both physical and psychological. Helps reboot your spirits.

Alcohol

Adult beverages help us relax and celebrate, but too many can wind us up. Limit it to 2 drinks if you're a man under 65, or 1 drink if you're a woman or a man over 65, especially if it’s going to be a long night. Again, think like Thanksgiving. Pace yourself. No one wants to nod off before they’ve called Texas.

Take it in stride

Even bingers look away now and then. Call a friend, someone you can talk to. Have a good book close by. Channel surf or stream. Chances are, there’s a good movie on. Email your mom or a sibling and ask how they’re doing. Get out for a speed walk around the block. The change in temperature will do your mind good. And it feels great when you get back inside.

Emotional support system

We’ve all got someone who makes us laugh. Put them on speed dial. Have them do the same with you. Chuckle your way through the night. There’s no charge for laughing. You don’t need a prescription, and it’s a great stress-breaker.

Hum

We’re not kidding. Humming to yourself, or right out loud, lowers BP. Anything, from the latest billboard topper to snatches of Puccini. Ira likes the Beatles "She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah". Seriously. He even did a video. One day, we’re going to share it with you.

Political differences

Try not to have them. Arguments, especially heated ones, boost stress and raise BP. Divided households (part red, part blue) know how to handle this stuff. And they’re probably happy to share tips.

Know when to call it a night

If it looks like it’s going to be a cliffhanger and it’s driving you crazy, don’t let it. Staying up won’t change the outcome or make it happen any faster. Shut off your phone or screen. Spend 10 minutes deep-breathing, read a few pages of that good book, then turn out the lights. Sleep is a great restorative. Aim for 8 hours. We promise. This will be there when you wake up. The country won’t do anything without you.


After the Election

As we said above, the polls show a tight race. Factor in delays, bad weather and inevitable glitches; add to that the need to count absentee/or mail-in ballots (some states will accept them up to 9 days after the election); multiply it by the potential for legal challenges, and this thing could — um — go on for a while. If it does, accept it. If you’re philosophical, try Augustine. Or yoga.

We’re being facetious. Stress happens when we can’t control what’s going on around us and start stewing about it. Don’t stew. Accept that this is less than wonderful, then try to put it aside. Get on with all the other aspects of your life. You’ve been a good citizen and done your part. Let the system do its. It will. The tips above will help as much after the election as they did on the day itself. Keep them handy. Keep moving forward. For more, download our free ebook.

The holidays will be here before you know it. We’re already working on it.

Stay well.

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