There are a lot of good reasons to hate winter. Short days, icy roads, runny noses, and the very strong feeling of not wanting to leave your bed in the morning are only a few. The minor inconveniences of cold weather are well known, but did you know that exposure to the cold can affect your health in some serious ways?
Here are 5 things that can happen to your body when it’s cold out—and ways to stay healthy throughout the season.
1. Cold makes it easier for viruses to spread
The idea that cold weather lowers our immune system function is a popular one, but most studies show that it’s not entirely accurate. You are more likely to get sick in winter, however, the reason is not that your immune system is lowered, but rather that viruses spread faster and more easily in cold, dry environments than in warm, humid ones.
The solution, of course, is to keep your immune system strong by eating well, getting enough rest, and continuing to exercise throughout the cold months. Powerful foods and herbs like ginger, garlic, turmeric, and oregano oil can also help to keep your immune system strong and keep viruses at bay during the coldest days of winter.
2. It exacerbates cardiovascular issues
Scary but true: research shows that you’re more likely to have a severe heart attack during the winter. One physiological reason for this is that cold weather can cause blood vessels to tighten and narrow, resulting in decreased blood flow and increased blood pressure. Higher stress and depression levels in the winter also make cardiovascular events more likely.
This year, keep warm by dressing in layers, try to minimize your time in very cold temperatures, and practice relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to keep your stress levels down.
3. It can make you feel depressed
Seasonal depression is known to be caused by lack of sun exposure, but the cold weather itself can also play a part. Your brain, like your body, is very sensitive to cold temperatures, and not keeping warm enough can result in brain and mood changes including depression, impaired thinking, or confusion.
Again, it’s important to limit your time in very cold temperatures, and bundle up with layers, a hat, and a thick scarf when you must be exposed to them.
4. It can make you feel achy
If your joints feel noticeably stiffer and achier on cold days, it’s not just your imagination. Studies have shown a strong relationship between cold, damp days and arthritic flare ups, a phenomenon related to both the cold as well as to the change in air pressure that comes with extreme weather.
Reduce the pain by dressing for the cold when you go out, and keeping the heat turned up when you stay in. Cayenne, turmeric, and ginger have also been show to be anti-inflammatory and to aid in reducing joint pain.
5. It can affect your lungs
Cold weather can cause big problems for those with asthma and allergies because of how it can affect the lungs. When you airways become cold, they can respond by becoming swollen, constricted, or by spasming. This can occur as quickly as a minute after exposure to the cold.
Keeping your body warm will do some of the work in keeping your airways warm, but you also need to try to warm up the air you breathe. You can do this by keeping your hand and nose over your mouth when you’re outside in the freezing weather.
There’s no reason to let winter get the best of you or your health! You can combat all of these potential health hazards by staying warm, limiting your time outside on those extra Arctic days, and not letting cold weather get in the way of the healthy habits you already practice.
-The Alternative Daily