Winter and Hidden Issues Regarding Your Health
It’s almost winter again. Time to snuggle up with a coco, your partner, favourite DVD, sleep in, lie in bed and look at the warm sun coming through the blinds, and stay indoors more. None of us will enjoy that though if we have a dose of the flu. Unfortunately for many people winter is an issue namely, the very young, elderly or those already fighting some kind of immune illness. Thankfully for those of us that are pretty healthy we rug up and brave the weather but we also need to realise that Winter can be a womb for many illnesses that slide unseen under our well-being facade. Illnesses that can affect our heart, blood pressure and of course, our lungs.
No matter how much we attempt to protect ourselves from the cold often the temperature tends to bring more asthma, respiratory problems and exposes the weak to pleurisy and even pneumonia. Emphysema can also be worse due to the cold restricting the airways making breathing more difficult. As a rule the older you get, the harder it is to regulate body temperature. There’s less fat and muscle and less ability to generate heat.
To add to this the darker weather and bleaker days also foster for many what is known as SAD. Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that can occur in Autumn or Winter. It brings with it a loss of energy, anxiousness, wanting to sleep more, weight gain and wanting to withdraw socially. Happily there is treatment for it as in exposing the person to artificial light as well as some natural supplements to give their moods a boost.
A study done back in 2010 in England showed that a drop of only 2 degrees in temperature Fahrenheit also resulted in a 2 percent rise in heart attacks in the two weeks following that. It meant 200 more heart attacks throughout England and Wales on colder days. The statistics used were from a three year temperature study of records and 84000 hospital admissions.
It was found that because our arteries respond to the cold and it constricts them, (narrows them); it can cut down the blood flow through the whole boy and make the heart work harder. To people with heart problems add some exertion to this and it can pose problems. Constricting arteries could also trigger tears in the plaque of the walls of the arteries, cause blood clots to form, and from there trigger a heart attack or stroke. Of course England is much colder than here but the fact that it is measurable at all and has some correlation means we need to be aware of this.
Naturally the constriction also leads to an increase in blood pressure as there is less space for the blood to flow so it also poses a risk for people suffering from high blood pressure.
Add to this the Vitamin D deficiency which increases on those bleak wintery dull days and we have a recipe for quite some hefty illnesses. Vitamin D deficiency occurs much more easily in Winter because in the cold we tend to go outside less and sit less in the sun. Since this vitamin is usually best absorbed through the skin a deficiency soon occurs. We need about 15 minutes of sun on our body daily and that is if you are not already deficient. It has been known that low levels of Vitamin D can lead to Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, dementia, heart attacks and osteoporosis. A number of studies have shown that people low in Vitamin D are more likely to suffer heart attacks or strokes.
Also remember you need to watch what you are eating so that you don’t fill up on those empty carbohydrates just because you are cold and since people tend to eat and drink more in winter keep an eye on your weight. If you are a smoker be aware that the cold may cause you to smoke more or take in more alcohol and that will also affect your Health and heart.
So with all of the above going on it becomes even more important to exercise so our bodies don’t get so cold and all the above constriction does not occur as much. Usually the reverse happens and we slack off our exercise routine however these days there should be no excuses. Many of us have unused treadmills stowed in the garage and exercise bikes. Drag them out if you are using the excuse you can’t afford to join a gym. Also there are many good exercise DVD’s on the market and it’s great to go to a Yoga, Tai Chi or Pilate’s class. Do your exercise perhaps in the warmest part of the day if you can. If you timing it right and the sun is out you may still be able to take that winter walk. Remember to keep warm though as those constricting arteries caused by shivering and cold with raise that heart rate and blood pressure levels which is not good for your heart if you have heart problems or for those with high blood pressure.
I guess grandma kind of had it right with her ideas of a good breakfast, a brisk walk, a cup of hot soup, eat your fruit and veggies and remember to wear your scarf, coat, socks, jumper etc. However grandma did not live in such a denatured society so also remember to take your supplements – a good multivitamin, vitamin B for stress, Echinacea for those sniffles, horse radish, lemongrass tea, garlic and onions, chicken soup and lots of rest when you can. So as winter starts to sneak up on us remember grandma’s words and perhaps you will get through a flu free winter.