Weather and Wellness

Your grandmother was right – our bodies can predict the weather. For some it means achy joints; for others, the results can be deadly. Here’s what you need to know.

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Ever hear your grandmother say her arthritic knee told her when it was going to rain? Well, it turns out that research backs her up. It’s estimated that some 60% of people are weather sensitive. For instance, a recent study showed that that a rise in temperature means an increase in tension headaches and migraines. Even more alarming, the number of heart attacks jumps in winter by as much as 50%. In fact, the weather can actually expose our wellness weaknesses. So, pay attention to find out what you can do to stay healthy come rain or shine.  

Cold

How it affects your heart Frigid temperatures actually thicken your blood and constrict your arteries, which, in turn, elevates your blood pressure. Those 2 changes are a 1-2 punch for your heart leaving it more vulnerable to a heart attack. Add overexertion (such as shoveling the driveway), and you’re primed for a visit to the ER. So take it easy before starting physical activity and warm up slowly. If you must do hard work, such as shoveling snow, work in small intervals taking breaks in between. Better yet, if you are over 50 or know you are at risk for heart disease, ask someone else to do it or invest in a snow blower.

How it affects your lungs Cold air is often dry air, which irritates the lining of your lungs, causing cracks and swelling, which can exacerbate, or bring on, asthma. In addition, viruses thrive in cold weather, which is why winter is flu season. To help your lungs handle the chill, wrap your scarf over your mouth and nose to moisten the air before it goes down. To stay healthy, remember to wash your hands frequently and pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for when you can’t make it to a sink.

Storms

How air pressure affects your joints Our joints actually depend upon the outside air pressure to keep them in place. During storm fronts, when the external pressure drops, it allows the joints to loosen, which can cause pain, especially if you are using them a lot. If you notice that your body tells you wet weather is coming, talk with your doctor about how to be proactive and ease the pain before it can slow you down.

How air pressure affects your sinuses Your sinus cavities are just that, spaces in your head filled with air, and sometimes, fluid. When the outside air pressure drops, the air trapped inside your sinuses wants to escape, putting pressure on your head and causing pain. The easiest way to tell if sinuses are causing your head pain is to press on them and see if pain is localized there.

Sunlight

How the sun affects our brain When the northern hemisphere is far from the sun during the winter months, some of us experience chemical changes in our brains that lead to depression. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and it affects 10% of Americans. Fortunately, there is an innovative solution to combat it. High power light-makers (not sunlamps, which emit dangerous ultraviolet radiation), mimic the sun’s affect on your brain, stabilizing serotonin, the chemical related to depression. Exercise can also help by releasing mood-boosting endorphins.