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Long IslandSuffolk

Southampton Hospital bans political debate for heart patients

Jessica Swiatocha, manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Southampton

Jessica Swiatocha, manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Southampton Hospital, stands next to a sign asking patients to refrain from debating politics. Credit: Southampton Hospital

A healthy debate can still be bad for your blood pressure, says Jessica Swiatocha, manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at Southampton Hospital.

All debate surrounding this year’s election was recently banned from the hospital’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation gym, Swiatocha said. Bright pink signs now hang in the center that read: “Due to the fact that we have patients with heart conditions we cannot allow political debates in the gym.”

Swiatocha says divisive political discussion has been stressing out some of her patients, all of whom are either recovering from heart surgery, have had a heart attack or suffer from congestive heart failure, she said.

One patient complained about being sandwiched between a Trump supporter and a Clinton advocate while using a treadmill. The woman was caught in the crossfire of the political argument for about 15 minutes, Swiatocha said and was made “very uncomfortable.”

“Stress has been proven to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Swiatocha wrote in an email. “It can increase blood pressure, increase irregular heart rhythms, decrease immune response, increase anxiety and worsen insomnia. Because of this we like to keep our cardiac rehab a stress free zone. We do a lot of education to our patients on stress reduction and didn’t want to be preaching a low stress lifestyle in a high stress environment.”

Swiatocha said that when they first posted the flyers, some at the center thought it was a joke, and that since they went up her staff has had to remind patients to comply with the new policy and leave the debate at the door.

“It is meant in a lighthearted way, but we do take it seriously. People are free to discuss the issues but we don’t want people raising their voices or for anything to get too heated,” Swiatocha said.

This election has a lot of Americans on edge.

According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in August, 52 percent of adults said the election is a “very or somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives.

Another survey released by Gallup in July found that 51 percent of Americans said they were afraid of the election outcome. And a poll by the Pew Research center found that 55 percent of voters were “disgusted” with the campaign.

Swiatocha said she too has election fatigue and is looking forward to taking down the bright pink notices after Election Day.

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