Our collective spirits could use a March break
The Grump Meter is inching towards a critical level
November, some believe, is the “month of the dead.” But, whether it enters like a lamb or exits like a lion, March can also be one cruel month. Chances are that over the last few weeks, if you have not lost a loved one, you have attended a wake or a funeral, or know of someone who has just passed away.
Popular wisdom has it that the New Year brings a plethora of deaths because the feeble and/or sickly “hold on” until Christmas and give up the ghost once the Holiday Season is over. That belief is based on the belief that we have the power to keep The Grim Reaper at bay.
And there is some truth in that tenet, since March is Nutrition Month, a time when we are reminded that we are what we eat, and that we do have the power to alter our lifestyles, and live longer and happier lives.
Anyway, of all the deaths that will occur this year in Canada, 9.3 per cent will take place in January and 8.9 per cent in March. Here is another reason to look forward to warm weather -- the percentage of deaths drops to 7.8 per cent during the summer months.
If you believe statistics, in eastern Ontario, the mortality rate is higher than the rest of the province, but it is improving. The death rate among men here decreased from 902 to 650 per 100,000 population between 2000 and 2009. At the same time, the death rate for women dropped from 562 to 474 per 100,000. The Ontario mortality rate is 608 for males and 410 for females.
Want to live longer? Move somewhere else. Just kidding. Packing is such a pain.
We know that people in the five eastern counties -- Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and Prescott-Russell -- live about four years less than people in the rest of the country.
The average life span here is 76 years. The national average is about 81 while Ottawans and Torontonians live about 78 years.
We have the dubious distinction of having abnormally high incidences of the big killers -- heart disease and cancer. Clogged arteries and heart attacks claim about a third of the population in this district while lung cancer will kill another 17 per cent.
Apart from tobacco use, other factors such as less access to health care for rural residents, low education levels and poverty contribute to area residents’ life spans. But what about the weather? Stress levels do rise in the Winter, when people worry about icy roads, frozen pipes, snow-covered roofs, local hockey playoffs. On the other hand, routine chores keep you in shape. For example, if you are feeding a woodstove, there is rarely an idle moment.
But if you are not accustomed to strenuous exercise, exertion, whether you are shovelling snow vigorously for a long period of time, or pushing a car out of a snowbank, can put you at risk.
Common sense would dictate that a person with cardiovascular disease would not suddenly embark on a ten-kilometre snowshoe trek, without stretching first. The good news is that cold weather will not kill you. The bad news is that snowfall may signal your demise.
Studies of winter deaths caused by cardiovascular or respiratory problems show fatalities spike on warmer days with precipitation, when people are forced to clear snow or chip away ice.
On the other end of the thermometer, extreme heat can also be deadly.
Extreme heat. That seems like such a strange concept at this time of year.
Not quite Winter, not quite Spring, March is a transition month, a time when the Grump Meter is inching up to a critical level. We could all benefit from a March break, if we could afford one. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. Winter depression or Winter blues, is recognized as a major depressive disorder that has been linked to the weather. Spend too much in the dark and you are bound to get down. That is why the prevalence of SAD is about one per cent in Florida and nine per cent in the Arctic. You don’t have to resort to drugs to get rid of SAD. Phototherapy, or light therapy, is effective. Go for a walk; it can do wonders for your state of mind. Wear bright colours; play reggae music; dance around the house.
But depression is something that cannot be taken lightly. Another sad distinction about this region is that we have a high suicide rate. If you are down in the dumps for prolonged periods of time, get professional help.
On a more upbeat note, we seem to be slowly emerging from the dead of Winter. Seed displays have appeared in stores. So it is Spring, right? If Back to School sales can start in June, Halloween decorations go up in August and Boxing Day specials begin in November, it makes sense that season-bending can also extend to Spring.
We receive word that Haydn’s “Spring” will be performed in Vankleek Hill soon; registrations are being accepted for Spring activities; potholes have returned.
We look ahead to the Ides of March, and St. Patrick’s Day, and the annual merriment associated with the patron saint of Ireland.
‘Tis fitting that we conclude with a grand wish: May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and may you be half an hour in heaven before the Devil knows you’re dead.