Most of us associate cold weather with the late fall and winter months, which brings us holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. These can be festive and exciting times, but you probably don’t think much about how cold weather affects your health.
The truth is, there are many common effects of cold weather on the human body. Understanding them can help us prepare and protect our bodies during this time of year.
How Cold Weather Affects Your Health
Here are some of the most common ways cold weather can impact your health.
1. Cold Weather Affects Your Heart
According to Consumer Reports, the risk of heart attack rises in winter because lower temperatures concentrate your blood at the core of your body—near the heart. This can increase your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which are two key health numbers affecting your heart. Cold temperatures can also make blood clots more likely.
In addition, your body must work harder to stay warm when it’s cold outside. This alone can put more stress on your heart. Cold weather also narrows blood vessels and can increase the risk of a heart attack.
2. Cold Weather Affects Your Immune System
When your body sends more blood to your head and heart to stay warm, there is less blood supplied to your immune system. This can lead to weakened immunity when it’s cold. If you’ve wondered how cold weather affects your health when it comes to disease, this is it.
Because your immune system is not as strong during cold weather, there is a higher risk of contracting viruses and infections like the common cold, flu, norovirus, and more.
You also have a higher chance of getting sick because people tend to spend more time in close quarters during the winter. We are attending more parties, going to restaurants, and shopping in malls and stores with other people who may be carrying viruses.
3. Cold Weather Affects Your Skin
Chances are, you find yourself using more lotion and lip balm when the temperatures drop. This is because dry air can suck the moisture from your skin, leaving it dry and flaky.
4. Cold Weather Affects Your Movement
It’s much more tempting to be sedentary during the cold months. Most of us enjoy getting cozy under a blanket, watching holiday movies, and relaxing with friends and family. However, we must remember that this is another cold-weather risk to our health.
Being sedentary can increase the risk of heart issues like heart disease, as well as obesity. It’s important to maintain a good balance.
5. Cold Weather Affects Your Balance
Icy or watery streets and sidewalks increase the risk of falling. This increases the chance of fractures and bruising.
6. Cold Weather Affects Your Body Temperature
Those who live in places with extreme winter temperatures should beware of things like hypothermia and frostbite. These can cause permanent damage to your limbs if not prevented.
7. Cold Weather Affects Atmospheric Pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the pressure within Earth’s atmosphere. This pressure can change a lot depending on where you are and the temperature.
High atmospheric pressure during cold weather has been linked to joint pain, sinus pressure, and migraines.
8. Cold Weather Affects Mental Health
Some people suffer from what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during certain times of the year, especially fall and winter. It’s common to feel sad, down, or hopeless when the days are shorter and temperatures are colder.
What Can You Do?
Knowing how cold weather affects your health can help you protect your body during colder months. Here are some things you can do to combat the risks:
- Wear warm clothes and plenty of layers.
- Avoid high-intensity or strenuous activity that can put extra stress on your heart.
- Practice proper handwashing.
- Wear shoes with good soles that don’t slip, and watch where you walk after rain or snow.
- Moisturize often and use a humidifier to keep your skin moisturized.
- Don’t stay outside for extended periods of time when temperatures are near or below freezing.
- If you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about increased risks during cold weather.
The Bottom Line
You can also care for yourself during this time of year by taking the time to enjoy the simple moments. Stay safe from the cold and focus on what matters most to you.