With fall and winter also come cooler temperatures and cloudy, dreary weather – which can sometimes do a number on the health. Below is a look at how the change in seasons and weather can impact the body and what health risks you need to watch out for, as well as what you can do to prevent those risks and help your body better adjust.
One of the most common complaints that physicians hear from patients is that their bones and joints tend to ache when the weather has changed or is about to change, which might mean that this isn’t an old wives’ tale after all. This is particularly prevalent in individuals who have had previous injuries to their bones, muscles or joints, such as strains, sprains and breaks, as well as individuals with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. However, it’s not necessarily the weather itself that causes these aches and pains. The real cause is the drop in barometric pressure – which drops right before bad weather sets in, and that can explain why people say that they can often tell when the weather is about to change. Individuals who suffer from migraines may also notice that their migraines increase in severity as a result of a drop in barometric pressure.
Your blood flow will also reduce the cooler the weather is, which is actually your body’s way of defending itself against cold temperatures. When you subject yourself to cooler weather, your blood vessels will constrict, which limits the amount of blood that flows to the surface of your skin. This means that you might notice your hands and feet feeling cooler than the rest of your body, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means your body heat is being conserved so that your vital organs are protected. Another common way that your body may react as a result of restricted blood flow is through shivering – and the colder you are, the more intense that shivering will be. This means that your body is attempting to generate heat. To prevent or reduce shivering, try to keep the body moving around as much as possible. The cooler the weather is, you’re also more likely to develop goosebumps, which are actually the body’s way of attempting to create an insulating layer of skin.
Your risk of having a heart attack also increases with colder weather. This is because people tend to exercise less during the colder months – especially in the winter or after a snowstorm. So, when you go outside and start to vigorously shovel snow from your sidewalks and driveways, this can do damage to the heart as it tends to work harder to keep you warm, which also leads to an increase in heart rate as well as blood pressure. It’s also more common to suffer a heart attack if you already have pre-existing heart problems, so make sure you check with your physician before putting your body through anything strenuous. That being said, the best way to prevent a heart attack is to make sure you’re in peak shape, which means getting regular physical activity and eating healthy year-round.
Speaking of exercise, it’s not uncommon to be sedentary when the weather is cooler. The worse the weather is, the more likely it is that you’ll want to stay indoors – whether it’s staying in bed or watching television for hours on end. However, living a sedentary lifestyle can not only increase the risk of heart disease, but can also increase the risk of diabetes and cause other long-term issues with your health.
To prevent these and other health risks associated with cold weather, make sure you’re aware of your body’s tolerance to temperature changes and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if you’re going to be outdoors, dress appropriately (i.e. sweaters, jacket, boots) and be prepared for possible adverse weather, such as rain or snow. If you have any health concerns and think they might be a result of the change from summer to fall, be sure to address those concerns with your physician.