Our col­lec­tive spir­its could use a March break

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey richard@glen­gar­rynews.ca

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.


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