While winter won’t be in full swing for a few more weeks, at least by the calendar, people are already starting to feel the effects of colder weather and shorter days. There are a number of health concerns that come along with the winter season but you can take some steps to make sure that spring finds you happy and healthy.
How does winter affect your health?
There are many ways that winter aggravates the human condition: dry skin, migraines, an increase in indoor allergies, and more incidences of falling due to icy conditions. But there are also more serious threats to your health in the winter.
One struggle that many people have in common during the winter is maintaining a healthy weight. Eating healthy, staying active and keeping fit are even more critical this time of year. So why is it so hard to keep off the extra pounds? There are several reasons:
- Holiday meals. From October 31 to January 1, there is an abundance of candy and sweets in addition to foods that are heavy with carbohydrates to tempt your taste buds.
- With the colder weather and shorter days, it’s more difficult to get outside and stay active. We’re more likely to stay in, sit around and enjoy binge-watching a favorite show.
- Blood sugar levels are more difficult to control. The decrease in exercise and the holiday meals combined cause blood sugar levels to increase. If you’re diabetic, you’ll need to be very careful about your insulin levels during the winter.
A winter snowfall sure is pretty, but you shouldn’t shovel snow without being mindful of the increased risk of heart attack, particularly the older you are. Even the most fit person will experience the additional stress that cold weather can put on the heart. The reason? The increase in blood pressure combined with an increase in cholesterol levels caused by the cold makes the heart have to work harder. And cold weather also has the potential to increase the risk of blood clots. So when you’re out shoveling the snow, a very physically intense activity, your heart gets more than a work out. It’s actually having to overcome a number of risk factors to get the work done.
The best way to protect your heart is to simply stay warm. If you dress in loose layers and wear your hat and gloves, you’ll be able to keep your core warm. Keep in mind that, as you get older, your ability to feel how cold you really are diminishes. For this reason frostbite is a real danger to everyone but especially young children and people over the age of 65. Don’t be caught outside without bundling up first.
The cold weather also has the potential to aggravate any current medical issues you might have. If you suffer from COPD or asthma, your symptoms may be more severe. You may find yourself coughing or wheezing more easily. In cold weather, the air you breath is not only cold, it’s dry. That cold, dry air causes your airways to become irritated and swollen which hampers your ability to breath. Covering your mouth and nose with a scarf may help by warming the air as you breathe in.