Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries

Common sports injuries can happen to anyone from seasoned athletes to sports lovers, especially children. These injuries can often be treated with rest and pain medication, but some can result in a more intense recovery process. If you do experience any of these sports injuries, monitor your situation and head to the nearest emergency room if necessary. 

What causes sports injuries?

Common sports injuries are usually caused by inadequate stretching or warmups before an activity, not wearing the proper protective gear, improper training, or overtraining. 

Sports injuries can be separated into two categories: acute and chronic injuries

Acute injuries are caused by direct trauma to an area including a fall or a blow. Examples of acute injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, concussions, cuts. These injuries are typically manageable and can be treated at home.

Chronic injuries occur from an injury that has been developing over time, usually from repetitive training. These injuries usually develop from an acute injury that was ignored the first time. If you suspect that you have an injury, it’s best to play it safe and consult a doctor. 

What are the top 10 most common sports injuries?

1. Strains 

Strains are the most common sports injury. When we play sports, our bodies use muscles and tendons that may not move as much as we’re used to during regular activity. A strain occurs when the tissue tears or stretches. The most common muscles to strain are the hamstrings, hip flexors, the groin, the ACL (also known as a tear), and the quads. Luckily, strains are typically minor and heal within a few days, but if you are in severe pain, head to the ER.  

For more information on ACL tears, read our article on the difference between ACL vs. MCL tears.

2. Groin pull

As mentioned above, the groin is a common place to strain. A groin strain is commonly called a groin pull. When there is too much pressure in the muscles surrounding the groin –– the thighs –– the muscles can be overstretched or torn. A groin pull usually occurs in sports that require lots of running and jumping. 

If you do pull your groin, you’ll notice a tenderness in the groin or inside your thigh muscles where it will be hard to close your legs or lift your knees. With a mild tear, you’ll simply feel discomfort with weakened strength. However, more serious strains in the groin can result in severe pain with a loss of function in the muscles due to the severe tear. 

Treatment for a strained groin includes over-the-counter pain medications and icing the injured muscles. 

3. Sprains

Where strains occur in the muscles, sprains occur in the ligaments –– the bands of rough tissue that connect bones together. Sprains often result from landing awkwardly after jumping or from quick, pivotal movements that cause tearing. When a sprain occurs, you’ll likely hear a “pop” noise at the time of the injury and experience painful swelling accompanied with bruising in the injured area. The most common example of a sprain is an ankle sprain, in which the three ligaments on the outside of your ankle tear or stretch due to awkward movement. 

Though immediate medical help is not always needed when a mild sprain occurs, severe sprains may require surgery to repair the fully torn ligaments. 

4. Knee injuries

The knees are one of the joints of the body that endure the highest amount of stress. In addition to allowing you to walk, go up and downstairs, and transport heavy items, for every pound of body weight, your knees receive four times that burden. And when you play sports or do vigorous exercise, it can be even more shocking to the body. The symptoms of a knee injury, including a knee sprain, include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • A popping sensation
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion

5. Fractures

A fracture is a complete or partial crack in a bone, typically caused by high-force impact in contact sports. Fractures most likely occur after a fall. With a fracture, you’ll notice the pain and swelling right away and likely won’t be able to move the injured area.

There are multiple different types of fractures including:

  • Closed fractures: where the break in the bone doesn’t damage the surrounding tissue or break through the skin

  • Compound/Open fracture: where the damage does penetrate the skin and the bone is exposed. These are more serious as they’re prone to infection.

  • Avulsion: where a muscle or ligament pulls on the bone

  • Comminuted: the bone is shattered into many pieces

  • Hairline: where the bone is only partially fractured

Our bones are meant to be able to withstand powerful forces of impact, but age can play a factor in that resilience. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to fractures due to their bones being weaker than the average adult. In this case, if you have children who play sports, make sure their organization maintains best practices for safe play during practice and on the court. 

6. Dislocations

A dislocation occurs when a joint is forced out of its normal position, immobilizing the joint. The most common dislocation injuries in sports happen to the shoulders and fingers, usually from a fall. You’ll likely notice the joint will be visibly out of place, swollen, and even discolored. 

Dislocations are most common in high-impact or contact sports like football, gymnastics, hockey, or basketball. After experiencing a dislocation once, you are more susceptible to injuring the area again with even further complications including pulled muscles or nerve damage around the joint. Try to seek medical help right away to start the recovery process.

7. Tennis elbow

Shockingly, you don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow. Tennis elbow, also referred to as golf elbow, occurs when there is repetitive motion in the wrist or arm that causes the tendons in your forearm to strain from being overused. Sports like tennis and golf require the player to use similar motions over and over again while playing that can stress the muscles and form tiny tears on the tendons.  

Tennis elbow can also happen to individuals who have occupations that require them to work vigorously with their hands doing repetitive tasks (like plumbing for example). Thankfully, tennis elbow is not a serious injury; but to avoid it, be sure to take breaks during your activities and pace yourself accordingly. 

8. Shin splints 

Shin splints refer to the pain in the lower legs, specifically the shin bone (tibia), caused by inflammation. Shin splints are most common in joggers, runners, or soccer and basketball players who have to do a lot of stop-and-start running. 

Pain, tenderness, and soreness are clear signs of a shin splint and can be treated with proper stretching and rest at the least. Contact a doctor if you notice the pain persisting for more than a few days and if ice and pain relief medication do not help with the discomfort.

9. Back injuries

Any time you decide to play a sport, you risk the chance of a back injury. Like your knees, your spine takes a fair amount of stress from the amount of physical activity, making back injuries very common amongst athletes and avid exercisers. Injuries occur when inflammation accumulates around the vertebrae and back muscles, which can injure the discs in your upper and lower back. 

About 90% of acute back injuries heal in under three months, but more severe cases may often require surgery and a more intense recovery process. Seek medical help if the pain travels down to the legs, the pain persists for more than two months, or you notice any changes in bowel movements or your balance. 

10. Concussions

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that impacts your brain function and affects your memory, balance, and coordination. A violent blow to the head can cause your brain to suddenly move back and forth inside the brain and hit the walls of your skull –– this intense motion is what causes the injury. Concussions are most common in contact sports like football or soccer.

Some of the symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Forgetfulness 

Though mild concussion symptoms can go away in one or two days, continue to monitor the injured party to see if any more issues occur. More serious concussions can cause someone to lose consciousness. If you or the injured party loses consciousness for more than 30 seconds, has persistent headaches or vomiting over the next few days, seek medical care immediately. 

The long-term effects of concussions are still being studied, but all signs point to repeated concussions causing health issues in the future

What sports cause the most injuries?

Basketball, to most people’s surprise, is the sport that causes the most injuries followed by soccer, football, and baseball –– all high-contact sports. Now, just because a sport has a higher injury rate doesn’t mean you have to avoid playing the sport. Be sure you’re taking all of the necessary precautions if you decide to participate. 

For more information on preventing certain sports injuries, check out our articles on winter sports injuries, gymnastics injuries, and trampoline injuries 

How to prevent common sports injuries

Though we can’t predict when common sports injuries will occur, we can do our best to prevent them. Most injuries occur because our bodies aren’t quite ready for the amount of stress playing a sport puts on our muscles. If you follow these tips below, you will be more prepared to play your favorite sports and less likely to get injured.

Here are some best practices to avoid an injury while playing sports:

  • Wear the proper protective gear (shin guards, helmets, padding, etc.)
  • Warm up and stretch before participating in any sport
  • Strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility 
  • Stop playing if you feel an injury 
  • See a doctor if you feel an injury getting worse 

Whether you’re an athlete or simply love playing sports, these tips are crucial to helping you avoid injury. If you are an athlete, be sure to follow a daily stretch routine as well as our athlete nutrition tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Visit Complete Care’s Emergency Facilities for Treatment of Sports Injuries

Though most common sports injuries can be treated at home, more serious injuries need to be handled with care. At Complete Care’s emergency facilities, we treat all of our patients like star athletes, meaning you’ll be seen within minutes, not hours. Under our care, you’ll be in, out, and back to playing your favorite sports. 

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs and Pueblo). Whether you have an emergency or just a simple health question, we will take complete care of you.

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What is a Hypertensive Crisis?

What is a hypertensive crisis? A hypertensive crisis is a rapid spike in blood pressure (BP) that can result in a stroke. High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common in the United States, affecting one out every three adults. If not monitored properly, it can lead to many different health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, and dementia.  

Learn more about exactly what is a hypertensive crisis and get a stronger understanding of when to get help. 

Hypertensive crisis classification

There are two types of hypertensive crises: hypertensive urgency and hypertensive emergency. Both require immediate medical attention. The biggest differentiator between the two types of hypertensive crisis classification is whether or not there has been damage to your organs. 

Hypertensive urgency

A hypertensive urgency means that your blood pressure has spiked significantly, but there is no organ damage yet. Though your blood pressure could read 180/120, you’re not experiencing the symptoms of a crisis. With a hypertensive urgency, you can wait a few minutes and check your blood pressure again before seeking medical attention. You may be administered some medication, but hospitalization may not be necessary.

Hypertensive emergency

With a hypertensive emergency, you need to seek help fast. An emergency dictates that your BP has reached 180/120 and you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below. This is a sign that there has been organ damage and you should seek medical help immediately. If ignored, hypertensive emergencies can have life-threatening/altering complications.  

Think a hypertensive emergency may actually be a heart attack? Learn how to help someone having a heart attack in our blog. 

What is the most common cause of hypertensive crisis? 

A hypertensive crisis occurs when your blood pressure is extremely high. As seen in the chart below, this is indicated when your systolic BP (the top number) rises above 180 mmHg or a diastolic BP (the bottom number) above 120 mmHg. Physically, this can cause your blood vessels to become damaged and leak blood or fluid, making it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively. And when your heart can’t pump blood to the rest of your body, your organs begin to suffer. For example, the excess fluid could instead leak into your lungs, a phenomenon known as pulmonary edema. 

A hypertensive crisis can also occur if you have experienced the following conditions:

  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke
  • Heart and/or kidney failure 
  • Aorta rupture (your body’s main artery)
  • Neglecting or mixing blood pressure medications* 
  • Chronic hypertension 

*Blood thinners are a medication that can obstruct the blood flow between the veins and arteries in the heart, which can lead to heart attacks. Learn more by reading our article on the dangers of blood thinners.

What is a healthy blood pressure? 

Knowing what is a healthy and unhealthy blood pressure is crucial to understanding when to be concerned and consult a doctor.

A healthy BP is anywhere between 90/60 and 120/80. The number at the top (systolic BP) refers to the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The number at the bottom (diastolic) refers to the pressure when your heart is resting between heartbeats. 

This chart below from the American Heart Association is a great source for knowing where you stand in terms of your blood pressure levels. 

 

When is blood pressure high enough to go to the hospital?

If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of a hypertensive crisis and your blood pressure is elevated to 180/120 or higher, go to the ER immediately for evaluation. For a deeper dive, read our article discussing when to go to the ER for high blood pressure. Delaying diagnosis could be fatal.  

Warning signs of a hypertensive crisis

The common warning signs of a hypertensive crisis include: 

  • Severe chest pain*
  • Severe headache 
  • Blurred vision

These are less common symptoms and are similar to heart attack warning signs:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Leading an inactive lifestyle 
  • Numbness
  • Weakness

These symptoms are clear signs of organ damage as a result of a hypertensive crisis:

  • Chest and/or back pain
  • Seizures
  • Severe anxiety 
  • Heart failure 
  • Altered consciousness

*If your chest pain persists for more than a couple of hours, this may be an instance of when to go to the ER for chest pain

How do you treat a hypertensive crisis? 

If you experience a hypertensive urgency, your treatment may consist of oral medication designed to reduce your blood pressure.

If your doctor believes there may be organ damage as a result of a hypertensive emergency, he or she will most likely administer tests to check for damage to your vital organs (brain, heart, and lungs). Treatment for a hypertensive emergency will take place in an ER or hospital and may include intravenous therapy or oral medications –– such as sodium nitroprusside –– to quickly stabilize your blood pressure. 

If you do experience a hypertensive crisis, lifestyle adjustments will have to be made. We recommend a heart-healthy, active lifestyle combined with proper blood pressure management and diet as strong preventive measures against hypertensive crisis.

Complete Care Emergency Rooms are here to help during a hypertensive crisis

Now that we’ve discussed what is a hypertensive crisis and its warning signs, you can be more prepared by knowing when to seek medical attention. We understand the severity of a hypertensive crisis and how important it is that you’re examined by a doctor immediately. At Complete Care, you get hospital-quality patient care within minutes, not hours, with no appointment necessary and no surprise billing. 

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs and Pueblo). Whether you have an emergency or just a simple health question, we will take complete care of you. 

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How to Help Someone Having a Heart Attack

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure what to do when someone is having a heart attack, Complete Care has created this guide for you. In this article we’ll be discussing how to help someone having a heart attack, symptoms and warning signs to look out for, and even what to do when having a heart attack alone. 

If you are helping someone who is in immediate medical crisis, click here to skip to our instructions for heart attack first aid treatment. 

A brief overview of heart attacks 

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by buildup inside the arteries. If this buildup goes untreated, there is a larger risk of severe damage to the heart muscle or even death. Knowing how to spot a heart attack when it occurs can be key to the recovery process. 

Note that it is crucial to know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack. With a heart attack, there are a few steps you can take to ease the situation while medical help arrives for the victim, but cardiac arrest requires medical attention immediately. 

How can you tell if someone is having a heart attack? 

Here are some of the common symptoms a person can experience before or while having a heart attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Jaw pain 
  • Lower abdomen pain
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting 
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea

Someone experiencing heart attack warning signs can usually feel them hours, days, or weeks before their heart attack occurs. 

Note that a heart attack usually causes chest pain for over 15 minutes. It can begin in the middle of the chest area, then spread to the person’s arms, neck, and jaw. Women, however, usually don’t experience this symptom as a warning sign. If you’re unsure if your chest pain requires medical attention, read our article on when to go to the ER for chest pain.

What is the first aid treatment for heart attack?

Here is what to do when someone is having a heart attack:

  • Call 911: Don’t hesitate, call 911 immediately. If they are able to tell you the name of their primary care physician, phone that doctor also.

  • Have them chew and swallow an aspirin: Aspirin can help prevent heart attacks for those who have coronary artery diseases and can be useful if someone thinks they’re currently having one. Ignore this step if the person is allergic to aspirin.

  • Keep the person as calm as possible: The less strain on the heart, the better the recovery process.

  • If the person is unconscious and not breathing, begin CPR or use an AED:
    • For CPR: 
      •  Lay the person flat on their back, tilt their head back, and open their airway
      • Double-check for breathing listening and feeling for airflow
      • If the individual is not breathing, place one hand on top of the other, interlace your fingers, straighten your arms, and use your body weight to perform compressions below the breastbone (roughly the center of the chest)
      • Perform 30 chest compressions at least 2 inches deep, then provide 2 breaths
      • You should be performing about 100 to 120 compressions a minute.The dispatcher or doctor will take over once they arrive.
    • For AEDs:
      • AEDS are typically located in busy public areas on a visible wall 
      • If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is readily available, turn it on. It will provide you with instructions

Note that CPR compression rate is different for children and infants, but these populations experience heart attacks very rarely. 

What to do when having a heart attack alone 

The steps of what to do to do when having a heart attack alone are very similar to the ones listed above. 

  • Try –– or get someone near you –– to call 911
  • Chew and swallow an aspirin if you have one handy (unless you’re allergic or are advised to refrain from taking it)
  • Try to keep calm as best you can
  • If you’re in your home and conscious, try to unlock and be near your front door so responders can find you easily

Though the internet is littered with home remedies for stopping heart attacks, listen to your doctor for advice on heart attack prevention. You may be at greater risk if you’re an older male, have pre-existing heart conditions, and partake in unhealthy habits like smoking. 

Experiencing a medical emergency? Complete Care can help. 

If you’re still unsure of what to do when someone is having a heart attack, Complete Care is here to help. Our emergency care facilities are open 24/7 and provide hospital-grade care to patients within minutes, not hours, with no appointment necessary and no surprise billing.  

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs and Pueblo). 

Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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The Difference Between Cardiac Arrest & Heart Attack

Though people tend to use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack. Cardiac arrest vs. a heart attack can be explained like this: if your body is a house, a heart attack is a plumbing issue while cardiac arrest is an electrical issue. 

Your heart valves (coronary arteries) pump blood to the heart like a pipe system, so if those pipes get clogged and can’t deliver blood, you may be at risk of a heart attack. Whereas your heart has a built-in “electrical” system to keep it beating at a regular pace. When that system “malfunctions” and starts beating at an incredibly fast rate, the heart stops beating altogether and it can no longer pump blood and oxygen to the rest of your body. This results in cardiac arrest. 

Cardiac arrest and heart attacks are both severe heart conditions, but knowing how to spot the symptoms and differences could save a life. 

Why does cardiac arrest occur? 

Cardiac arrest occurs when your heart has a rapid, irregular rhythm (arrhythmia) and stops beating, cutting off all of the blood flow to the rest of your organs. When your heart stops pumping blood to your brain, it can cause you to lose consciousness. 

Cardiac arrest is more likely to affect older people, but if you previously have had a heart attack or have other pre-existing heart conditions including high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you are more susceptible to going into cardiac arrest. Be sure to visit your doctor for routine checkups and preventative screenings. 

Cardiac arrest symptoms

Here are common cardiac arrest symptoms to look out for: 

  • Chest pain*
  • Shortness of breath/wheezing 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sudden collapsing
  • No pulse or breathing 
  • Loss of consciousness

Sudden collapsing, no breathing/pulse, and loss of consciousness are immediate signs of sudden cardiac arrest. If you notice any of these symptoms above, especially ones of sudden cardiac arrest, call 911 or get to an ER as soon as possible. 

*If your chest pain feels intense and seems to last for a long time, consider going to the ER. For more information, read our article When to go to the ER for Chest Pain.

Causes of a heart attack

What causes heart attacks? A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by buildup inside the arteries. If this buildup goes untreated, there is a larger risk of severe damage to the heart or even death.

Leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack, but if you’ve suffered from one in the past, visiting your doctor regularly can help you catch symptoms early before they get too severe. In the event you witness someone showing these symptoms, it’s important to know how to help someone having a heart attack

Heart attack symptoms 

Here are common symptoms of a heart attack to look out for: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Jaw pain 
  • Lower abdomen pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea

Some of these are similar to symptoms of cardiac arrest, but tend to be more easily detected.  These symptoms can usually last for a few days or even a week. Read our blog for a more in-depth look at the heart attack warning signs.  

Which is worse, heart attack or cardiac arrest?

Though both of these conditions are severe and require an immediate trip to the ER, cardiac arrest is more serious. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, brain damage can occur in a matter of minutes due to the lack of oxygen and blood. Symptoms of cardiac arrest can be less easily detected, and if not treated immediately, can be fatal. If you feel you’re experiencing any heart attack symptoms, talk to a doctor. It is better to get a “false alarm” than to risk the possibility of permanent damage to your heart. 

Complete Care is Here for any Heart-Related Emergency

Though there are differences between cardiac arrest and a heart attack, heart-healthy habits are the key to preventing them from happening. For more tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates.

We pour our hearts into emergency care. No matter what day or time, the staff at Complete Care are ready to take care of you. We’re open 24/7 for any questions or concerns you may have regarding your heart health. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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When to Go to the ER for High Blood Pressure

Whether you struggle with high blood pressure on a regular basis or have a one-off high reading, it can be difficult to know when to go to the ER for high blood pressure (hypertension). But since a hypertensive emergency can lead to organ damage, it’s important to know when to worry about a blood pressure reading and make the trip to the ER. 

Fortunately, there are guidelines you can follow. Here is a list of definitive examples of when to go to the ER for high blood pressure, along with answers to top FAQs regarding high blood pressure. 

1. You’re experiencing a hypertensive urgency or hypertensive emergency

Hypertensive urgencies and hypertensive emergencies are by far the most common types of hypertensive crises. The two types of emergencies differ in terms of severity, but both are serious conditions and both instances of when to go to the ER for high blood pressure. 

A hypertensive urgency occurs when your blood pressure has reached 180/120 but you are not yet experiencing symptoms or organ failure. A hypertensive urgency may be a temporary spike in blood pressure. If you are not experiencing symptoms, wait five minutes, then take your blood pressure again. If your blood pressure has remained at 180/120, have someone drive you to the ER; you are at-risk for a hypertensive emergency. 

A hypertensive emergency occurs when your blood has reached (and likely remained at or above) 180/120 and you are experiencing symptoms. Symptoms include severe chest pain, severe headache, and blurred vision, and may also include symptoms of other medical issues (heart attack, stroke, pulmonary edema, kidney failure) that are caused by or related to the hypertensive emergency. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in conjunction with a blood pressure reading of 180/120, it is essential that you seek medical treatment immediately

For a thorough examination of these hypertensive urgency and hypertensive emergency, please see our article, What is a Hypertensive Crisis?

2. You’re experiencing symptoms of extremely high blood pressure but can’t measure your blood pressure

A lot of the guides we see explaining when to go to the emergency room for high blood pressure seem to assume that the average person has a manual sphygmomanometer — the familiar blood pressure measurement device with a pump and cuff — or digital blood pressure reader at home. In reality, these aren’t typical household appliances. 

While you can check your pulse manually with your fingers, you can’t check your blood pressure (specifically, the pressure of blood on your arteries) without a blood pressure device. Apps are also notoriously unreliable. 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a hypertensive crisis but don’t have a blood pressure monitor, go to the ER anyway. This is especially true if you know you often have elevated blood pressure or match certain risk factors such as diabetes, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, regular alcohol or tobacco use, or a genetic history of hypertension in your family.

3. You’re experiencing regular high blood pressure at 20+ weeks pregnant 

Many moms-to-be experience slightly elevated blood pressure while pregnant, a condition called gestational hypertension. However, blood pressure readings of 140/90, especially after 20 weeks of pregnancy, can point to a pregnancy complication called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is thought to be caused by abnormalities in the extra blood vessels that develop to send blood to the placenta. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications for both baby and mother, including preterm birth. 

To monitor for preeclampsia, your doctor should measure your blood pressure regularly during your prenatal checkups and check for excess protein in your urine (another common symptom of preeclampsia). While preeclampsia can develop slowly, it can also onset suddenly. If you are monitoring your blood pressure at home and notice levels regularly above 140/90 OR if you are experiencing symptoms such as severe headaches or changes in vision, contact your doctor immediately and go to the emergency room.  

Why you should go to the ER for high blood pressure  

When your blood pressure readings are high enough to indicate a hypertensive crisis, the pressure that your blood is exacting can damage your blood vessels. In particular, high blood pressure can increase your chances for blood clots, cause your blood vessels to leak or burst, and critically reduce the amount of blood that is reaching your organs. 

These complications can lead to severe complications, including but not limited to:

  • Stroke: Blood pressure-related strain on blood vessels can cause a blood clot (ischaemic stroke) or blood vessels to burst or leak (haemorrhagic stroke) within the brain, causing a stroke.

  • Vision loss: Strain on the blood vessels can cause ischemic optic neuropathy (blockage of blood flow to the eye) resulting in damage to the optic nerve and potential vision loss.

  • Heart attack: Strain on the blood vessels can cause a blockage of arteries leading to the heart, which results in a heart attack. (If you’re concerned a loved one is experiencing a heart attack, please review our articles Heart Attack Warning Signs and When to Go to the ER for chest pain).

  • Heart failure: Heart failure occurs when your blood can no longer pump blood efficiently as it should, eventually stopping due to the strain. Hypertensive crises cause your heart to work very hard and can lead to heart failure.

  • Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulging of a blood vessel. The pressure exerted on your blood vessels during a hypertensive crisis can cause aneurysm, especially aortic aneurysm. The aorta is the primary artery that carries blood away from your heart.

  • Pulmonary edema: Occurs when your heart is too strained to pump out enough of the blood it’s receiving from your heart. Pressure from the strained heart pushes fluid through the blood vessel walls and into your lungs.

  • Kidney failure: This typically occurs when you’ve had high blood pressure over a long period of time, as ongoing high blood pressure causes arteries around the kidneys to narrow, weaken, and harden, reducing the amount of blood delivered to your kidneys.

  • Sexual dysfunction: High blood pressure can cause erectile dysfunction when damaged blood vessels reduce the amount of blood flow to the penis.

What to do when your blood pressure is high

Lowering your personal blood pressure baseline takes time and requires healthy lifestyle changes. But how do you lower your blood pressure immediately? You should not attempt to manage the type of high blood pressure crises described above with home remedies or self-treatment; hypertensive emergencies require immediate medical attention. 

However, if you want to try and lower your blood pressure in between when you recognize that your body is in crisis and when you make it to the ER, the following may help:

  • If you have hypertensive medications, take them 
  • Lie flat on your back (or, if you’re in the car on the way to the ER, put your seat back) 
  • Close your eyes and focus on taking deep breaths and remaining calm 

Again, if you’re experiencing a hypertensive crisis that fits within the examples of when to go to the ER for high blood pressure mentioned above, these remedies should not be used as a replacement to medical intervention.

What will the ER do for high blood pressure? 

When you arrive at the ER with high blood pressure, the first thing your physicians will do is try to bring your blood pressure down. Typically, this is done with either oral or intravenous medications. Your doctor will also assess your heart and other organs for potential damage and begin treating any complications that might have arisen. Depending on the severity of your hypertensive crisis, these damages may range from minimal to severe. 

Additional hypertensive emergency FAQs 

What is considered stroke-level high blood pressure? 

Stroke, the blocking, leaking, or bursting of blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, is associated with raised blood pressure levels. While there is not a specific reading of blood pressure number associated with stroke, based on what the American Heart Association has designated as dangerous blood pressure levels, you can say that you are more at risk for stroke if your blood pressure reads at 130/80. For comparison, blood pressure readings of 120/80 are considered healthy.

My child has high blood pressure — should we go to the ER? 

While children have different “healthy” blood pressure readings than adults due to their smaller size and weight, the blood pressure reading of 180/120 that indicates a hypertensive crisis in adults also indicates a hypertensive crisis in children. If your child is experiencing these blood pressure levels, they need immediate medical care. 

Should I bring my blood pressure medication to the ER? 

Yes. The more information your physicians know about what medications you’re taking for blood pressure and at what doses, the better. 

When you need to go to the ER for high blood pressure, Complete Care is here

Knowing when to go to the ER for high blood pressure can help you remain calm in a time of crisis, as can knowing what emergency room to go to when you need help. At Complete Care’s freestanding emergency room facilities, we are equipped to take care of all of the emergencies your standard ER handles, but without the wait time. Not only can you rest assured that you will be seen quickly at our facilities, but also that you will be treated with compassion when under our care. We have been nationally recognized for our service. 

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs and Pueblo). Whether you have an emergency or just a simple health question, we will take complete care of you.

Get in. Get out. Get back to life. 

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Giving Blood: Restrictions, Rules, and Eligibility

Donating blood is an exceptional way to give back to your community, which is why it’s important to know about basic giving blood restrictions. The list of eligibility restrictions and rules for donating blood is extensive, and rightfully so; it’s important to keep those who receive donated blood safe. However, many of these requirements are very specific and are only applicable to individuals who likely know to check on their eligibility. 

In the interest of making donating blood easier for the average person, Complete Care has pared down the list of giving blood restrictions provided by the American Red Cross to those issues that come up the most frequently. 

Blood donation eligibility – basic requirements 

Before we get too deep into giving blood restrictions, let’s cover a few requirements that don’t have anything to do with your health. In order to donate blood, you must:

  • Be at least 17 years old. In some states, you can give blood at 16 years-of-age with parental consent. 
  • Weight at least 110 lbs. The weight limit is enforced because the amount of blood in your body is roughly proportional to your weight; the bodies of individuals who weigh less than 110 lbs. may not respond well to the standard amount of blood drawn during donations. 

A quick note on the different types of blood donation 

Today, there are several different types of blood donation. For example, The American Red Cross (ARC) has four different donation categories that are split up depending on the blood components taken:

  • Whole Blood: White blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and plasma all donated
  • Power Red: 2 units of red blood cells donated; platelets and plasma returned to your bloodstream 
  • Platelet donation: Only platelets extracted donated; other blood components are returned to bloodstream
  • Plasma donation: Only plasma extracted and donated; other blood components are returned to bloodstream

If you intend to take advantage of a blood donation type other than whole blood donation, keep in mind that these donations may be subject to additional restrictions and rules.  

What excludes you from donating blood? Top restrictions for giving blood.

As we mentioned previously, there are quite a few blood donation disqualifications. The following are just the most common restrictions for giving blood that need to be enacted. 

1. You have the cold, flu, or other acute illnesses that cause fever

If you have the cold or flu at the time you wish to donate, you will want to reschedule your appointment for a full 7 days after your symptoms have disappeared. Having a cold or the flu doesn’t affect the blood you’re donating, but blood donation centers turn away sick individuals from donating in an effort to reduce the spread of the flu. If you are running a fever, you will not be permitted to donate blood. 

Blood donation rates often go down during the flu season. If you want to help combat this issue, take a moment to read our article on Staying Healthy During the Flu Season

2. Your iron (hemoglobin) levels are too low 

Hemoglobin, a protein found in your red blood cells plays an essential role in transporting oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues and back to your lungs. Hemoglobin also contains much of your body’s iron. So when someone says that your iron levels are too low, that is actually a misleading way of stating that your hemoglobin levels are too low for you to safely donate blood.  

Hemoglobin levels are measured in grams per deciliter. In their eligibility requirements list (linked above) The American Red Cross states that:

“In order to donate blood, a woman must have a hemoglobin level of at least 12.5 g/dL, and a man must have a hemoglobin level of at least 13.0 g/dL. For all donors, the hemoglobin level can be no greater than 20 g/dL.” 

If you’ve had trouble giving blood in the past due to low iron/hemoglobin levels, you can combat these deficiencies by eating iron-rich foods, especially meat and animal products (beef, turkey, chicken, etc.). If you are vegetarian, breads and pastas, beans, peanuts, lentils, tofu, and eggs are also good sources of iron, although your body cannot absorb the iron they contain as easily. 

3. You are taking certain medications or antibiotics 

What medications disqualify you from donating blood? Frankly, because there are so many medications this question is one of the more complex ones to answer regarding giving blood restrictions and rules. As a general rule, most OTC medications will not disqualify you from giving blood. If you take prescription medications, look at the ARC’s list of medications to see if your medication may defer your donation. 

The following are the most frequently discussed medications when it come to giving blood restriction: 

  • Aspirin: If you take Aspirin or medications containing Aspirin, you will likely be allowed to donate whole blood. If you wish to donate only platelets, you will need to wait the space of two full days between the last time you took a pill and the day you donate blood.

  • Blood thinners: Since blood thinners affect the ability of your blood to clot, individuals taking certain types of blood thinners will not be allowed to donate.

  • Birth control pills: Women taken birth control are eligible to donate blood.

  • Insulin: Diabetics using insulin are eligible to donate blood so long as their diabetes is well under control.

For most antibiotics, wait until you have completed the full course of antibiotics if you are taking oral medication, and wait until 10 days after the last injection if you’re receiving antibiotics by injection.

4. You traveled to the wrong place at the wrong time 

Travel exposes us to different cultures, customs, and… diseases. Unfortunately, some of these diseases can affect your ability to donate blood. 

Mad Cow Disease / Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) 

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is an infectious brain disease that occurs in humans and can be passed on via blood transfusion. Individuals with CJD are not allowed to donate blood. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, is a variant of CJD that can be passed on to humans when they eat food products from cows sick with Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Once infected, humans can then pass vCJD on to other humans via blood transfusions. 

In the 80s and 90s, the UK saw a widespread outbreak of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cows. Symptoms from vCJD can take years (sometimes as many as 50) to show. Currently, there is no sufficient test that can be used to screen all blood donors for vCJD before donation, which is why certain restrictions are placed on potential donors who traveled to, lived in, received blood transfusions in and around the UK during those times. 

In particular, you will not be allowed to donate blood due concerns over vCJD if you:

  • Traveled/lived 3 months or more in the UK from Jan. 1st, 1980 – Dec. 31st, 1996 
  • Traveled/lived 5 years or more in France or Ireland from Jan. 1st 1990 – Dec. 31st,1996 
  • Received a blood transfusion in France, Ireland, or the UK from Jan. 1st, 1980 – present 

Malaria 

Malaria is a blood infection that can be passed on during blood transfusion. Currently, donation centers do not test for malaria. So while traveling to, living in, or contracting malaria will not permanently disqualify you from donating blood, there are some important wait times/malaria-related giving blood restrictions you need to follow if you have been exposed to malaria. 

Appropriate wait times for blood donation if exposed to malaria: 

  • If you contracted malaria, wait 3 years after completing treatment before donating blood
  • If you traveled in a country where malaria is found, wait 3 months before donating blood
  • If you lived in a country where malaria is found for 5+ years, wait 3 years before donating blood 

Zika and Ebola 

Individuals who contracted Ebola are not eligible to donate blood. If you have contracted the Zika virus either in the United States or during travel, you can still donate, but you must wait 120 days after your symptoms resolve.

5. You were recently vaccinated

If you have recently received a vaccination or immunization, you may be required to wait for a period of time (typically a few weeks) before being eligible to donate blood. The major exceptions are the Smallpox vaccination and living in close proximity of someone who receives the Smallpox vaccination. It is requested that you wait 8 weeks after receiving a Smallpox vaccine or after living in close proximity to someone who received the Smallpox vaccine before donating blood. This waiting period should be extended if you experience complications.

COVID-19 vaccination restrictions are, at the time of writing, still subject to change. However, at the present moment, the ACR states that blood donations are “Acceptable if you were vaccinated with an Inactivated or RNA based COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Moderna or Pfizer providing you are symptom-free and fever-free.” If you received a different type of COVID-19  vaccine or are unsure what type of vaccine you received, you may be subject to a waiting period before you are eligible to donate blood. 

6. You have blood-related health issues

Blood and bleeding diseases or issues will often disqualify you from donating blood. If you suffer from hemophilia, Von Willebrand disease, hereditary hemochromatosis, or sickle cell disease, you are not eligible to donate blood. If you have sickle cell trait, it is still acceptable for you to donate blood. 

Note that having high or low blood pressure does not typically break giving blood restrictions, but you will need to meet certain criteria: below 180/100 and above 90/50 (systolic/diastolic). 

7. You have Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, or may have been exposed to these diseases via sexual contact 

Hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDs are diseases that can be passed on via blood transfusion, and therefore individuals who suffer from these diseases are ineligible to donate blood. Unfortunately, these aforementioned diseases can be transmitted through sexual contact, so if you are not certain whether or not you may have contracted these diseases from previous sexual partners, consider deferring your donation until you are sure. All donated blood is screened for hepatitis B and C and HIV.  

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and blood donation: 

When it comes to blood donation, other STDs are often wrongly lumped into the same category as hepatitis B and C and HIV. In reality, the ARC has separate recommendations for STDs and venereal diseases. 

  • Gonorrhea and syphilis: You should still defer blood donation if you are not certain whether or not you may have contracted gonorrhea and syphilis. However, if you have contracted gonorrhea or syphilis, you will still donate blood so long as you complete your treatment of the disease and wait 3 full months after the treatment is completed.
  • Chlamydia, HPV, and genital herpes: Individuals who suffer from chlamydia, HPV, or genital herpes are eligible to donate blood. 

8. You got a tattoo or piercing

These giving blood restrictions pop up on a lot of lists as being some of the more surprising reasons you might not be able to give blood. The concern behind tattoos, piercings, and even intravenous drug use, is that the instruments and needles used in these practices may spread hepatitis.  

For tattoos, you won’t be asked to defer your blood donation so long as you live in a state that regulates its tattoo facilities. If you don’t live in a state that regulates these facilities (District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming) then you should wait 3 months before donating blood. 

For piercings, you won’t be asked to defer your blood donation so long as the piercing was conducted using single-use equipment. If the piercing was made using reusable equipment (or if there’s any question whether or not it was) then you will be asked to wait 3 months before donating. 

9. You’re pregnant 

Pregnant women are requested to wait until 6 weeks after giving birth to donate blood. As mentioned in the section on iron and hemoglobin, your blood plays a critical role in providing oxygen to your tissues and muscles — and to a fetus, if you’re pregnant. For that reason, donating blood during pregnancy has the potential to create unnecessary complications related to low hemoglobin levels (anemia) that may affect foetal development. 

10. You donated blood too recently 

If you have given blood recently, wait at least 8 weeks before signing up again to donate. You have just donated about 8% of your blood! The wait time between donations allows your body to replenish all of the components of the blood that you donated.

What are the do’s and don’ts before donating blood

Have you explored the ins and out of giving blood restrictions, know you’re eligible to donate, but not sure how to proceed with preparing to donate? There are several steps you can take (and several you shouldn’t) to ensure that your donation goes smoothly. The American Red Cross provides a guide for first-time donors and a FAQ list. Complete Care has also created a handy guide for what to do before giving blood

Complete Care and our patients thank you for donating blood!  

Complete Care and our patients thank you for donating blood! Like all emergency rooms, Complete Care relies on donated blood to help save the lives of our patients. Just one donation can help save up to three lives! Blood cells, platelets, plasma — it’s all useful and potentially life-saving. Find a local blood drive near you and schedule a date to donate today. And thank you, from the bottom of our hearts! 

If you find yourself feeling especially ill after a blood donation, Complete Care is here to help. We are open 24/7 and welcome walk-ins. We are here for any of your health concerns. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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What to Do Before Giving Blood

Whether you’re a first-timer or a regular donor, it’s important to know what to do before giving blood. The key thing to remember when donating blood is to be sure you give your body plenty of iron and fluids before and after you donate. Iron helps carry oxygen to your blood cells, and low iron levels cause dizziness and fatigue. If you remember to keep drinking water (or other non-alcoholic beverages) and eat iron-rich foods, your blood donation is much more likely to be a success!

The demand for blood is always high, and regardless if you donate blood for a personal motive or for the free snacks, you’re still helping to save lives. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of blood donation to keep in mind.

What to do before giving blood

Before you decide to donate blood, here are some things to check for and execute before you arrive to your donation location:

  • Eligibility: Check to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements to donate blood. Factors including age, medications, and some health concerns could prohibit you from donating blood. For more information, check out our blog post on giving blood restrictions for a more simplistic view, or visit the American Red Cross Eligibility Listing for a full list of blood donor restrictions.

  • Registration: You’ll fill out a registration form that will ask for personal information including your name, address, and a donor identification number (if applicable) along with a list of medications you’re currently taking. Make sure to also bring a form of ID.

  • Drink water: A good portion of the blood donated is made up of water, so be sure to drink water before and after donating. Most locations advise drinking about 16 ounces of water beforehand. This will help reduce fatigue and dizziness after donating by keeping your body hydrated and replenished.

  • Eat iron-rich foods: What is the best thing to eat before giving blood? Iron-rich foods such as chicken, red meat, fish, spinach, broccoli, beans, iron-certified cereals, and lentils are essential for helping your body replace the red blood cells you lose during donation.

  • Dress for success: Be sure to wear a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow, or just a short-sleeved shirt. This is an often overlooked tip for what to do before giving blood, but it can make the whole process a lot more comfortable and easy for everyone involved.

  • Make sure you’re feeling well: You need to be in good health in order to give blood; you’ll be turned away if you’re running a fever or have an active cough. Unfortunately, flu season typically sees a dip in much-needed blood donations since so many people are turned away due to illness. Want to make sure the flu doesn’t keep you from donating? Read our article on Staying Healthy During the Flu Season.

Check out more details on how to get ready for a blood donation on the American Red Cross Guide for First-Time Donors

What should you not do before giving blood

Now that we’ve covered what to do before giving blood (the do’s) we need to discuss the don’ts. While some of these points may seem obvious, these tips are crucial to help you avoid feeling awful after your blood donation for a speedy and healthy recovery.

  • Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages: We know a lot of people ask, “Can I drink coffee before donating blood?” While it won’t directly affect the blood being donated, caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea can block the essential iron your blood absorbs. while alcohol can lead to dehydration. Basically, it’s more likely you’ll feel bad after giving blood when consuming these beverages before you donate. Try and stick with water before donating blood for less side effects later.

  • Don’t skip breakfast: Failing to fuel your body before you donate blood will result in nausea and dizziness. Start your day out right with a breakfast that incorporates those iron-rich foods (can’t go wrong with eggs!). Try to eat 2-3 hours before your donation to keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid fatty and rich foods that can block iron from being absorbed into your blood.

  • Don’t skip the snacks: After your donation, you’ll be offered refreshments and it’s strongly advised that you eat and drink to refuel your body. If you run straight to work after giving blood, you could feel faint and lightheaded which can result in fainting. So, take the snacks, you deserve them!

  • Don’t donate blood if you’re sick: The truth is the health of a blood donor matters. If you’re fighting an illness, especially if you’re taking medications like antibiotics, you will be asked to wait to donate blood. If you don’t feel well or are running a fever, consider rescheduling your donation appointment. 

What to do after donating blood 

You’ve donated blood! You can pat yourself on the back for doing a good thing for the community. However, keep in mind that when it comes to giving blood, aftercare is almost as important as preparation. We’ve covered what to do before giving blood, here’s what to do after. 

  • Snack and relax: Take a few minutes after your donation to have a snack. It’s important to give your body a second to adjust and restore your energy before you go about your day. Keep eating those iron-rich foods throughout the day to give your body back the iron you’ve lost during donation.
     
  • Drink more fluids: Replenishing your body of all the lost fluids is a top priority after donating blood. Try to drink at least four more glasses of water throughout the day and avoid alcoholic beverages.
     
  • Avoid intense exercise: Skip the weightlifting for today to avoid potentially fainting. Give your body a little time to recover and take a walk instead if you still feel the need to exercise.

  • Keep your bandage on: For the next few hours after donation, keep your bandage on to avoid any unwanted infections. Be sure to clean the area with soap and water.

  • Tell your loved ones!: You deserve to brag a little bit about the good deed you did. Encourage your family and friends to donate blood if they can! The more people that chip in, the more lives that can be saved. 

If you have additional questions about what to do before giving blood, the blood donation process, orthe  COVID-19 protocol, visit the  American Red Cross FAQs for more information. 

Feeling bad after giving blood? Complete Care can help.

At Complete Care, we use donated blood on a daily basis to help save the lives of our patients. Just one donation can help save up to three lives! Find a local blood drive near you and schedule a date to donate today. 

However, even if you know exactly what to do before giving blood, you can still feel dehydrated, nauseous, and potentially faint afterwards. This usually happens if your blood pressure drops due to dehydration. If this happens to you, Complete Care is open 24/7 and welcomes walk-ins that can typically be seen within a few minutes, not hours. Our stand alone emergency room facilities are able to offer our patients with the same level of care as an emergency room attached to a hospital, but without the wait time

We are here for any of your health concerns. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution

One of the only things more reliable than the coming of a new year is the flood of people wondering how to keep a new year’s resolution or how to make effective new year’s resolutions. Most people aim to make new year’s resolutions due to the “fresh start effect” of a new year. You make plans to eat healthy, go to the gym every day… but somewhere along the line, life happens, and those firm resolutions become next year’s problem. 

So, how long does the average person keep their New Year’s resolution?  Usually, about a month. According to ComRes, approximately 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the first week of February. Planning your resolutions and goals properly can stop this from happening.

If you’re looking for the answer to how to make your new year’s resolution stick, we have the tips you need to make 2021’s goals a reality.

How to make effective new year’s resolutions

Sticking to new year’s resolutions can all depend on how you make those goals. Creating a list of 50 things you want to accomplish in the new year can make you feel overwhelmed before you even begin! Try to think about what you really want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, and what will motivate you to reach that goal. Once you have that thought in place, you can begin your journey:

1. Don’t make the same mistakes 

Think back to the goals you made for yourself last year. What did you accomplish? What didn’t you accomplish? Did you write out 30 goals but only finished five? Your past ambitions can give you insight into what you are capable of achieving. Maybe smaller, more attainable goals work for you. Maybe more ambitious, long-term goals are more exciting for you. By understanding what you’ve been able to accomplish, you can tailor your new goals for the year. 

2. Do some self-reflecting 

Now that you understand more about what you’re capable of achieving, it’s time to ask yourself “What do I really want?” Are you aiming to finish that first draft of writing or get to your ideal weight? Think about something that you’re passionate about completing, something that brings you joy and motivation. From there, you can craft your resolution.

3. Pick one resolution 

It’s more likely you’ll find success in defining one overarching goal to complete for the new year. Yes, just pick one. Make it specific to your needs, relevant to your life, and measurable so you can track progress. This way you can work hard to achieve something that truly matters to you and alleviate the stress of attempting to complete multiple resolutions.

For example, if you know you need to lose weight, don’t pick 30 resolutions that all revolve around that core goal. Resolve to lose the extra pounds and take the necessary steps at the appropriate times as the year unfolds. 

4. Create a plan

Break your one resolution up into smaller goals and tasks. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” one goal can be as simple as learning methods of portion control or learning the dangers of sugar overload for better long-term eating habits. This also gives you the opportunity to take a look at your habits and why you have them. If you’re trying to curb your junk food addiction, think about why you gravitate towards unhealthy snacks and what small steps you can take to kick those cravings. 

Now that you have defined your resolution, broken it up into smaller goals, and created a plan, you’re ready to get started. This is the time to get excited, start planning, and start tracking your progress. 

Do New year’s resolutions have you stressed out? Knowing the signs and symptoms of stress can allow you to manage your stress easier for a healthier, happier life. 

How to keep track of new year’s resolutions

Tracking your resolutions throughout the process helps you to stay on track while staying motivated to complete your goals. For some, this could be taking photos every time you go to the gym or checking tasks off of a checklist. Having physical evidence of your progress will not only keep you moving forward, it will give you something to look back on when the goal is achieved. Writing everything you want to achieve down in a notepad or on your phone will remind you what you’re working towards. It makes the goal more real, so you’re less likely to put it off a month later. 

Remember, in order for your new year’s resolutions to be effective, you have to be flexible with yourself. If you slip up, don’t dwell on the negative mindset. Just pick up where you left off and keep moving forward. Identify your obstacles and how you prepare to face them. Adjusting your goals and plans over time can help you become more successful in the future. 

Complete Care makes your health a priority every year

We understand that the new year can bring a lot of stress along with it. But the answers to how to keep a new year’s resolution can apply to your everyday goals. Especially when health is such an important priority, it’s important to educate yourself on ways to keep yourself in top shape. Our blog offers insight into important topics including staying healthy during the flu season and how to handle stress during the holidays. At Complete Care, helping to keep our communities healthy and happy is our goal every year. 

Our stand alone emergency room facilities are able to offer our patients with the same level of care as an emergency room attached to a hospital, but without the wait time. We are open 24/7 and are typically able to see walk-ins within a few minutes, not hours. 

We can help with your health-related goals this year. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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Signs & Symptoms of Stress to Watch Out For

It’s impossible to avoid stress completely, but too much stress (and especially chronic stress) can lead to both short-term discomfort and long-term health complications. But if stress is a “feeling,” then what can stress do to your body? What are the signs and symptoms of stress? 

In this stress symptoms checklist, Complete Care answers these questions and more. As a trusted freestanding ER, Complete Care frequently sees the effects of extreme and/or chronic stress on the members of our community. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, we encourage you to seek proactive help to reduce the likelihood of a stress-related health emergency. 

However, should such an emergency ever arise, rest assured that we will be here for you with quick, effective, and patient-centered treatment and care.

A quick note about what stress is and why we feel it 

Some stress is normal — in fact, stress is the body’s way of trying to protect you. When you experience a stressful situation, your body reacts instinctively. Your muscles tense up, your nervous system releases cortisol and adrenaline (“energy” hormones), and your heart rate increases. In males, the amount of testosterone in your body also increases significantly. 

All of these reactions prime you for handling a temporary bad situation with more ease. Over the short term, stress can steel you against illness, respond to intense, fight-or-flight situations, help you focus, and more. In these ways, stress can actually be good.

But if your body’s natural reaction to stress is constantly “on,” your body can get worn down, the systems that respond to stress can become overtaxed, and the constant flood of once-helpful hormones may begin to have adverse effects. 

When that happens, the signs and symptoms of stress in question start cropping up. As you read through these lists, keep in mind that everyone experiences stress differently, and that the way your body and mind react to stress may change over time or from one stressful situation to the other.

Physical signs and symptoms of stress

  • Chest pain 

One of your body’s physical reactions to stress is for your muscles to tense up. When some people experience chronic stress, the long-term buildup of tension in their chest muscles can create chest pain. This pain can be exacerbated by an increase in heart rate. It can also be made worse if the individual struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. No matter the cause, chest pain should always be taken seriously. 

For more information on chest pain as related to stress, panic attacks, and anxiety, please see our article: When Should I Go to the ER for Chest Pain?

  • Clenched jaw & teeth grinding 

Like stress-related chest pain, muscle tension can also lead to individuals regularly clenching their teeth or grinding their teeth overnight. Unfortunately, chronic muscle tension in your jaw can quickly lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, (also called bruxism). Unfortunately, once you have TMJ, it can be extremely hard to break the cycle of teeth grinding, which can lead to further dental health issues. 

  • Fatigue or low energy 

While short-term stress can give you an energy boost, long-term exposure to stress wears out your body and can drain you of energy. If stress also creates problems with your normal sleep cycle, then this problem can be compounded. Unfortunately, fatigue can cause you to fall behind on responsibilities, make it harder for you to find the motivation to exercise, and encourage you to overeat, which in turn can make you feel more stressed. Like anxiety, fatigue and stress can also create an unpleasant feedback loop. 

  • Frequent colds and infections 

Again, short-term stress can actually temporarily increase your immune system’s ability to protect you from illness. Chronic stress, however, causes your immune system to tank and leaves you especially susceptible to illness. And again, if stress also disrupts your sleep cycle, your normal exercise routine, or your eating habits, then you are that much more likely to get sick. At Complete Care, we see this happening the most often during the holidays, when overburdened schedules and the cold and flu season combine

If you find yourself frequently getting ill during the holidays, please check out our articles: How to Stay Healthy During the Flu Season and How to Deal with Stress During the Holidays

  • Gastrointestinal issues

We all know that our “gut” is home to millions of (good) types of bacteria, but did you also know that the gut also has hundreds of millions of neurons? Both the neurons and bacteria in your stomach can be affected by high levels of stress, causing you to feel everything from “butterflies” in your stomach to having to deal with nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and more.

  • Headaches 

Muscle tension caused by stress can also increase your susceptibility to headaches, including migraines. Bad posture can compound the effects of muscle tension headaches, so if you have a stressful desk job, you may be suffering from a double blow, here. 

  • Heart rate and blood pressure issues

When reacting to a stressful situation, your body releases adrenaline, which in turn increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, a high heart rate and high blood pressure can contribute to cardiovascular diseases and hypertensive crises.

  • Muscle tension and body aches

One of the body’s standard ways of reacting to stress is to tense up your muscles. It does this so that your body is more prepared to act and move quickly. While this is great in an emergency situation, chronic stress can lead to chronic muscle tension, which in turn can lead to chronic body aches. Most people experience this type of pain in their face, neck, and shoulders. As we’ve discussed, it can also manifest as chest and jaw pain. 

  • Sweating

Adrenaline also sends signals to your eccrine glands — your sweat glands. Why we sweat when we’re stressed or nervous is still being debated by the scientific community. One prevailing theory is that “nervous” sweat, which has a different composition and smells more strongly than “exercise” sweat, signals distress to the people around us. Another theory is that nervous sweat has less water just to keep us more hydrated and more prepared to cool down our bodies if needed. Regardless, if you notice that you are sweating more than usual lately, it may be because you are experiencing undue amounts of stress. 

Behavioral signs and symptoms of stress

  • Exercising less 

When people feel stressed, one of the first healthy habits to fall off the to-do list is often exercise. This is especially unfortunate, as exercise is one of the best combatants of stress. Regular exercise can help lessen the effects of depression, boost your mood via endorphins, and help regulate your sleep schedule. 

  • Increased drug and alcohol use 

One of the most potentially deleterious behavioral symptoms of stress is the increased use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Many of these substances provide temporary relief to feelings of stress, but when used to excess can create costly, unhealthy habits. 

  • Insomnia or oversleeping

By setting hormones to pump through your body and making your muscles constantly tense, stress does not set you up for a good night’s sleep. Alternatively, individuals whose bodies react to stress in a way that increases their depression may in fact have issues getting out of bed. 

  • Overeating and undereating 

When your body is stressed in the short-term, your body (specifically your hypothalamus) actually suppresses your appetite. In the long-term, this pattern of under-eating or loss of appetite may continue, especially if an individual tends to skip meals when busy or loses interest in food when depressed.  

For others, when stress has disrupted sleep patterns and created fatigue, they may be more tempted to reach for foods high in sugars and carbohydrates. These foods not only taste good, but answer your body’s need for energy. Over time, however, eating this type of food when you’re stressed can result in cravings and even dependency.  

If stress is affecting your eating habits, check out our articles on Portion Control Tips and how to handle The Effects of Eating too Much Sugar

The long-term health repercussions of stress

Chronic stress symptoms occur when your body is exposed to long bouts of stress. In many ways, these repercussions are more “extreme” versions of the signs and symptoms of stress outlined above. They include but are not limited to increased likelihood of: 

  • Eating disorders: Obesity, compulsive eating, anorexia, bulimia
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, arrhythmia 
  • Gastrointestinal problems: GERD, ulcerative colitis, IBS
  • Psychiatric disorders: Anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia
  • Dermatological issues: Eczema, acne, psoriasis, hair loss  
  • Sexual dysfunction: Impotence, menstrual issues, loss of libido 

In many cases, chronic stress can also alienate individuals from their loved ones and significantly reduce their quality of life. In short, if you recognize that you are suffering from any of these signs and symptoms of stress on a long-term basis, it truly is in your best interest to practice stress management and, if necessary, seek help. 

When stress leads to medical emergencies, Complete Care is here 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress is often the first step towards learning how to manage your stress and live a healthier and happier life. 

However, if you or someone you love is not managing or has not managed their stress well, then it’s important to be aware stress can contribute to major health concerns. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, we encourage you to seek proactive help to reduce the likelihood of a stress-related health emergency. 

In the event that you do need help, Complete Care is here to help. Our stand alone emergency room facilities are able to offer our patients with the same level of care as an emergency room attached to a hospital, but without the wait time. We are open 24/7 and are typically able to see walk-ins within a few minutes, not hours. 

We take the stress out of emergency care. Visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care today.

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How to Handle Stress During the Holidays

Need some tips and tricks for how to handle stress during the holidays? Most people grapple with stress at some point during the holiday season. However, with a little mindful planning, your dream of actually relaxing this holiday season can still be a reality. 

At Complete Care, we see first-hand the effects of holiday stress on patients who come in during the holiday season. In the spirit of keeping our communities healthy and happy during the holidays, we’ve come up a list of top suggestions for how to handle stress during the holidays. 

Whether you’ve been frantically dashing from house to house like Santa on overdrive or your calendar is actually more empty than you want it to be, we hope you find the following stress management tips helpful.   

What causes stress during the holidays?

For many, it can be difficult to pinpoint why (or even admit that) they are feeling down during the holidays. But before you can know how to handle stress during the holidays, it’s wise to try and pin down your main source(s) of anxiety and unease and tease out exactly what stresses you out this time of year. 

Some of the more common sources of stress during the holidays include: 

  • An excess of obligations and events 
  • Difficult family members and/or family interactions 
  • Drinking to excess 
  • Crowds
  • Fatigue 
  • Mourning the death of a loved one
  • Financial pressures 
  • Illnesses (cold and flu season) 
  • Loneliness 
  • Not enough time alone 
  • Overeating 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) 
  • Travel issues

Take a moment to identify which of these holiday stressors tend to affect you most, then keep those in mind when we discuss tips for pursuing wellness during the holidays.  

The physical and mental effects of stress during the holidays  

Stress has physical and mental repercussions on our body. Depending on how your body handles stress, it may increase your likelihood of getting ill, raise your blood pressure, cause aches and pains, or contribute to depression and anxiety. 

The holidays are frequently a joyous time, but they are also often stressful. When they are, our bodies take a hit. For example, research on holiday stress points to increased cardiac mortality and increased psychiatric episodes during and directly following the holidays. 

In other words, when you begin to notice the signs of symptoms of stress, you might want to take a step back and reassess your approach to the rest of the holiday. A little bit of stress is normal, but excess stress makes it more likely that you will experience additional health effects in the long term. 

Find yourself frequently getting ill during the holidays? Check out our articles: How to Stay Healthy During the Flu Season and What Should I Do if My Child Has the Flu

How to handle stress during the holidays

1. Plan ahead and write down your plans, including your fun ones 

Not everyone has a packed schedule during the holidays, but many of us do. Even if you feel like planning out everything ruins the spontaneity of the holidays, if you are stressed by how much is on your plate, writing down both your obligations and what you plan to do for fun can help ensure that the former won’t accidentally outweigh the latter or vice versa. 

Holiday parties with work, family, and friends; cross-country travel; holiday gift shopping; holiday grocery shopping; cooking special dishes; taking care of kids who are out of school; holiday movie nights; religious services; pageants and concerts; decorating your home and tree; baking and decorating cookies; crafts and puzzles; exercising; video conference dates with loved ones who live far away; game nights… whatever you do to make the holiday season special, write it down and organize your time so that you make sure your top priorities don’t get buried. 

If you are busy, writing down your plans can give you clarity about what events you should skip or what activities you should adjust this year. In other words, it can make it easier for you to say “no” with a clear conscience, and give you insight into how you should “scale” any projects you may have (baking 2 dozen cookies instead of 6, sending fewer cards, etc.). 

If you are not busy but want to be, writing down your plans can help identify gaps in your schedule and give you ideas for how you want to fill them. 

2. Set a budget and monitor your finances 

One of our best tips for how to handle stress during the holidays is to keep a trained eye on your finances. Special events, travel, gifts, and more can put a strain on anyone’s budget. Instead of ignoring the mounting costs, try setting and sticking to a realistic budget. 

Many communities offer free or low-cost events around the holidays and virtual options can help cut down on travel expenses. If you’re tight on cash, plan ahead (à la step one) for making low-cost gifts such as personalized items, cards, cookies, or giving the gift of your time. 

3. Set realistic eating and exercise goals 

One of the biggest yet simplest means of how to handle stress during the holiday season is to maintain the healthy habits you may already have. Getting some light exercise, eating healthy snacks, using portion control tips, avoiding sugar overload when possible, and drinking in moderation only can all go a long way in keeping you rested and balanced.

Realistically, however, trying to practice perfect moderation during the holiday season is not only difficult, it can be counterproductively stressful. Instead, set realistic expectations and limits for when you will likely want to indulge and then stick to your healthy habits outside of those times. 

4. Have a plan for difficult conversations 

Time with family after a year spent apart can be a blessing; it can also make for some stressful conversations as the days wear on. And frankly, not all families need a big political event like an election to get them going on topics that can quickly become contentious. 

If you wish to avoid stress during the holidays, we encourage you to set aside your differences during this time and commit to staying above the stress. For those who tend to get caught listening to someone who likes to stir the pot, this may mean gently changing the subject or finding ways to remove yourself from the conversation. If you know you’re someone who typically starts or partakes in this type of conversation, try to have a mental list of other topics to discuss when you notice yourself straying into contentious subjects areas. 

5. Create space to honor lost loved ones

Individuals who have lost loved ones often struggle to express or admit to feelings of grief during this typically festive time. But grief doesn’t operate on a calendar year. If you know that you will be mourning someone during the holidays, do not be afraid to dedicate time to talking about, remembering, and memorialising a lost loved one. Consider reaching out to others who knew your loved one as well; they may also want to talk. 

Additional tips for how to deal with depression during the holidays 

The holidays can be particularly stressful if you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. If you know that you struggle with depression during the holidays, you may benefit from adding these tips to the aforementioned tips for how to handle stress during the holidays. 

1. Designate a close family member and/or friend as a point person if you’re feeling down  

Some individuals are comfortable discussing their mental health openly with their friends and family. If this is not the case, however, depression during the holidays can be especially isolating. Having at least one family member or friend whom you know you can reach out to when you’re in need can be a big source of relief. This is especially true during social gatherings, when simply having someone who knows how you’re feeling can be comforting. 

2. Remember that depression and anxiety don’t always occur for an external reason 

As mentioned previously, stress can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. In fact, many aspects of the holidays — large gatherings, the pressure to feel and act happy, and so on — can make the holidays hard for someone who is struggling with depression. 

Even so, it’s important to remember that depression can also occur even when everything is going right. If your depression or your anxiety are flaring up during the holidays but you can’t identify a reason why, remember that you still deserve support and should still maintain the practices that help you stay healthy. 

3. Try to drink, eat, and sleep in moderation 

In many ways, this tip is similar to the tip above regarding setting realistic eating and exercise goals. However, if you have experienced depression before, you likely know that it’s best for your overall mental health to avoid partaking in any substance in excess that alters your behavior or mood. In this regard, it’s especially important for individuals who suffer from depression and who are struggling with stress during the holidays to practice moderation whenever possible. 

4. If you can’t or don’t wish to spend time with family, make alternative plans 

Frankly, this tip for dealing with stress during the holidays is good for anyone. If you can’t or don’t wish to spend time with family over the holidays, take a little time to plan out what you will do instead. Many people opt to spend this time with friends or to volunteer. Even if you don’t want to see anyone during big holiday celebrations, you may benefit from a plan for how you’ll spend the time alone, doing things that you like to do. 

5. Have a plan in place for professional help if you need it 

The holiday season can be an extremely stressful time. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, it’s always in your best interest to have a plan for what you’ll do if you have a psychiatric emergency. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, speak to them and ask who you should call if you need assistance during the holidays. 

If you are contemplating suicide, it is imperative that you reach out to someone as soon as possible. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 and offers free, confidential support year-round: 1-800-273-8255.   

Complete Care: The least stressful way to address holiday injuries 

Knowing how to handle stress during the holidays is a great preventative measure that can help ensure you have a safe and joyful holiday season. In the event that you or someone you love needs urgent medical attention during the holidays, however, Complete Care is here to help.  

At Complete Care, our stand alone emergency room facilities are able to offer our patients with the same level of care as an emergency room attached to a hospital, but without the wait time. We are open 24/7 and are typically able to see walk-ins within a few minutes, not hours. 

When you need help this holiday season, don’t hesitate to visit your nearest Complete Care location today for quick, efficient, patient-centered care.

Get in. Get out. Get back to life.  

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