Minnesota and cold weather just naturally go together in the minds of most Americans — and not without reason. No matter how long you’ve lived in this part of the country or how accustomed to the cold you may feel, plunging temperatures can pose some serious health risks for you and your loved ones.
Fortunately, you can take steps to safeguard your family against cold weather’s potential effects on body and mind. Take the following four tips to heart as you watch the mercury drop.
1. Watch Out for Winter Germs
In addition to the obvious threat from COVID-19, cold temperatures also tend to coincide with cold and flu season. Contrary to what you might assume, the change in temperature doesn’t make these strains more virulent. However, people who avoid the cold by huddling together at home can more easily infect each other.
The same protective measures that help you avoid COVID-19 can also protect you against other germs. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Get the necessary vaccinations to ward off the flu or other infectious diseases. If you’ve already caught something, keep your distance from others to protect their health.
2. Mind Your Heart and Lungs
Cold weather causes your blood vessels to narrow. This reaction can raise your blood pressure, potentially raising your risk for a heart attack. Wear layers of warm clothing to insulate your cardiovascular system, and take frequent breaks when working hard outdoors in the cold.
Respiratory problems can become more troublesome during cold spells, from asthma attacks to allergies. Keep your inhaler or other asthma treatment handy, and make a point of cleaning out dust, dander, mold, and other winter allergens from your HVAC system.
3. Keep an Eye on Senior Family Members
As people age, their bodies may react more slowly and less efficiently to changes in temperature. Slower metabolisms and thinning skin make it harder for seniors to keep up their core body temperature in cold weather. A family member who has dementia may not dress appropriately for the weather or even notice the cold.
If you look after a senior family member, set your home’s thermometer to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that the senior in your life wears appropriate clothing, both indoors and outdoors, to help preserve body heat.
4. Take Care of Your Emotional Wellness
Cold temperatures, shorter days, and overcast skies often go hand in hand. Over the course of days or weeks, chronic depression may set in, a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Fortunately, certain strategies can help you elevate your mood and maintain a happier emotional state during those cold, dreary days. Regular exercise can play an important role in keeping your spirits up, provided that you perform the exercise under safe circumstances per your doctor’s recommendations. Any activity that boosts the circulation can increase mental alertness and energy levels. Indoor exercise works just as well as outdoor activities.
Don’t make the mistake of drinking excess alcohol in an effort to improve your mood or feel warmer. Alcohol actually encourages the body to shed its heat energy more rapidly, providing temporary warmth but eventually leaving you colder than before.
If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your health care provider. Treatment for SAD may include light therapy, medication and psychotherapy.
The experienced medical practitioners at Stellis Health can help you and your loved ones get through the coldest times of the year in optimal health. Contact us to schedule any necessary care.