3 Ways Winter Affects Your Health

Bundle up, it’s officially winter! It is fairly safe to say this winter has been mild for Calgary standards (up until now). We know that when winter rolls around it usually brings with it the common cold and flu. But there are other ways winter affects your health. It is easy to notice how winter affects us on the outside, but what about what’s on the inside? As your personal pharmacists we see a lot of issues with dry skin, but we also want to address keeping your heart and mind healthy during the winter as well.

Frosted tree in winter

Dry Skin

Most of the time, dry skin is something a good moisturizer can fix. In winter dry skin can lead to serious cracks that are painful and, if not addressed, lead to infection. Cold winter winds and dry heat in houses and buildings are big contributing factors to dry skin in winter. We may also be frequently washing our hands to stop the spread of germs in cold and flu season. Since it is hard to avoid these contributing factors, it is important to use moisturizer after each and every time you wash your hands. Keep your gloves on hands and cover your face with a scarf while outside to protect from exposure to the cold. For more serious dry skin problems, we recommend a tougher moisturizer to create a protective barrier over your skin. Examples include Cerave, George’s Cream or a local Calgary favourite, Lowen’s “Rub it in Why Don’t Ya”.

Heart Failure and Heart Attack

Why are there so many heart problems or heart attacks in winter? There are a number of reasons why heart attacks and heart failure spikes during the winter months. Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict which reduces blood flow to the heart. This causes more stress and often increases heart rate and blood pressure. The mismatch of supply and demand is tough on your heart, which is why we see more cases of heart failure and heart attacks in the winter. Some tips to help, especially if you are already at risk for heart disease, is to prevent overexertion while outside, particularly when shovelling snow. Bundle up in layers and wrap a scarf around your mouth to help with breathing in the cold air, and avoid getting the flu by getting your flu shot every year. Try new indoor activities to keep yourself active and watch what foods you are eating to keep your heart healthy!

Sedentary Behaviour and Mental Health

Winter can definitely be the hardest time of year on our mental health. Cold weather, less daylight, snow and bad road conditions lead to us to be more inclined to stay home, and not venture out as much as we do in other times of the year. This sedentary behaviour can have its toll on our mental health. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) have a particularly tough time with winter. Shorter days, and less exposure to sunlight in the winter months are contributing factors.

Combat the winter blues by taking the time to take care of yourself! Try simple things like getting enough sleep, eating well, and take advantage of any warm winter days. These small acts can help more than you think! Keeping active and social this time of year also helps to break out of the winter routine. If you are feeling down more so than normal try talking to someone about how you feel, reach out to your health care team including your doctor and pharmacist.

It is important to include your health care team on all aspects of your health, both things you can see on the outside, but also what is going on on the inside. The winter may be long, but there is always an end in sight! We hope some of these tips can help you survive Calgary’s winter.

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