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Health Pyramid Longevity and Vitality Center
Dr. Kathleen Hartford

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5237 Veteran's Lane
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
(724) 295-2100
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How Cold Weather Affects the Body

Your teeth chatter, your body shivers, and despite all your efforts to bundle up from head-to-toe, you can’t prevent it, the cold weather has arrived. Every person reacts differently to thermal stress. Age, fitness level and underlying diseases play a major part in someone’s reaction to cold. All these reactions are an attempt by your body to preserve heat, although not a very successful one.

With cold weather comes more impaired immune systems, and that’s pretty much an invitation for the common cold. In addition, the cold weather can affect your body in ways that never crossed your mind. Besides leaving you vulnerable to viruses, here are other ways the cold weather affects your body.

Migraines – With temperature change comes the falling of barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure that is most noticeable in drastic shifts of the weather and temperature. The pressure can be so intense with cold weather that it can lead to sinus issues and migraines.

Muscle and Joint Stiffness – Our bodies, which are about 70 percent water, can become more sensitive in colder weather. As temperatures drop, our bodies can lose elasticity, and it becomes harder to stretch. Colder temperatures can also cause painful changes in joint fluid thickness.

Weakened Hair and Nails – Cold temperatures can warp hair cuticles and make hair scales weak causing split ends to form while blood circulation slows down in cold weather causing your nails to become weak and brittle.

Depression – Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression with a season pattern, occurring most often in months when there is less daylight. It is most common between the ages of 18 and 30 and affects more women than men. People with SAD may have abnormally low levels of serotonin and high levels of melatonin, which affects sleep quality and happiness.   

Vasoconstriction – When temperatures hit 50 degrees Fahrenheit, your blood vessels narrow to reduce blood flow near the body’s surface. Sometimes the blood vessels dilate and burst which causes redness and can also numb your hands.

Heat loss in cold, wet weather increases the risk for hypothermia, frost bite and other cold injuries. Heat loss can occur in warm temperatures through conduction. For those of you who live where the winters are bitter and brutal, it is important to pack on the layers when taking a trip outside. For those who experience warm winters, swimming or sitting in cool or cold water can cause the body to lose heat very quickly, so think twice before taking dip to cool down.