Out in the cold
No doubt cold weather can be hard on your health, but there may be a silver lining or two.
Winter and its chilly temperatures are a mixed blessing when it comes to human health. We might not appreciate it at the time, but cold temperatures perform a great public health service by killing off disease-mongering insects and microorganisms, and one of the big worries about climate change is that winter will lose its pestilence-fighting punch.
Although it’s a bit theoretical, cold weather may also help us slim down by stimulating metabolically active brown fat. And in Scandinavia and Russia, many people actively seek out the cold: wintertime swimming in frigid water is believed to do health wonders, and there’s some science (not much, but some) suggesting that it might be so.
But there’s also a dark side to consider. Numerous studies have shown that death rates peak this time of year. Blood pressure increases during the winter, and, by some reckonings, 70% of the wintertime increase in the death rate can be traced back to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular causes of death. And, of course, flu season is a winter event, and flu viruses spread more readily once the air is dry and chilly.
Winter darkness, in a literal sense, may make matters worse. Sun-exposed skin makes vitamin D, a vitamin that seems to have all kinds of health benefits. During the winter, when days are short and the sun is at a low angle, levels of the vitamin in the body tend to dip. Cold temperatures and low vitamin D levels: that may be a bad combination.
The shunt and shiver
If it’s not too cold, our bodies adapt to cold temperatures pretty well. When we encounter cold air or water, the lacy network of blood vessels in the skin constricts, and blood is hastily shunted to the interior. That response adds to the insulating power of the skin because there’s less heat lost from blood circulating near the surface.
It also protects vital organs against the falling temperature. But we pay a price for the rerouting: diminished blood flow makes fingers, toes, and other peripheral parts of the body (the nose, the ears) vulnerable. Under the right conditions, blood vessels in the skin will open and close in an oscillating pattern, so skin temperatures rise temporarily, especially in the fingertips.
Shivering is another familiar defense mechanism against falling body temperatures. The rapid, rhythmic muscle contractions throw off heat that helps the rest of the body stay warm. The body may recruit more and more muscles as the temperature drops, so shivering can get intense and very uncomfortable. Voluntary movement – stomping your feet, swinging your arms – is another way to generate heat, and depending on the circumstance, may cancel out the need to shiver. It’s not a total gain, though, because exercise also increases blood flow to the skin, so some body heat escapes.
Body type explains some of the varying reactions to cold weather. Taller people tend to get cold faster than shorter people because a larger surface area means more heat loss. And fat’s reputation as an insulating material is well deserved, although for warmth during the winter, you want it to be the subcutaneous fat layered under the skin, not the visceral fat that collects in the abdomen.
Supplement for Positive Blood Flow
Whether you suffer with cold feet, hands or other blood flow related problems during the cold winter days, consider taking a supplement like the Manna Blood Circulation Support to help increase blood flow in the most natural way without any side effects.
If your feet remain cold and numb, the Tired Foot Gel can bring immediate relief.