Cold weather can cause health problems. A drop in temperature increases your blood pressure, which places an extra burden on your heart. Your body also has to work harder to stay warm during cold weather, and this too causes your heart to work harder. Sharp increases in blood pressure combined with the extra burden on your heart increases your risk for heart attack. This is especially true if you have an underlying heart condition or are shoveling snow.
Warm blood circulates through blood vessels to the rest of your body. When exposed to extremely cold temperatures, though, your body starts to shut down circulation to your extremities so that it can focus on delivering warm blood to your vital organs at the center of your body. The loss of blood in your fingers and toes allows your skin there to get very cold; the icy temperatures then damage tissue cells to cause frostnip and frostbite.
The cold temperatures of winter can also be hard on your lungs. Cold air is usually dry air, and dry air can play havoc on people with lung problems. Dry air irritates their airways, and this can cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
How to Stay Warm and Healthy During Winter
Eat well. Have you ever noticed that you prefer cool fruits, light salads, and smaller portions during the heat of summer, but crave hot and hearty stews, soups, and casseroles during cold weather? That is your body trying to tell you that you need to eat a few more calories to stay warm. Your body works like a furnace, burning fuel in the form of calories to stay warm.
Dress in layers. Start with a close-fitting base layer to wick away sweat, add insulating mid layers, and finish with a looser-fitting wind- or waterproof outer layer. Add a hat and scarf that covers your face and mouth to keep your skin warm and to warm the air as you inhale, and mittens to protect your fingers from frostbite. Wear water-resistant boots to maintain body heat.
Keep an eye on the air temperature. As you age, your body becomes less sensitive to temperature so you may not realize that you need to get warm until the cold has already caused harm.
Bring your inhaler or other quick-relief medications with you when you go out into cold air.
For more information on keeping your body warm, talk to your doctor. Reduce your risk for underlying diseases, such as heart problems or lung problems, through regular health scans. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.