Winter induced health problems in women
With winters finally here, most of us find ourselves getting unusually lethargic, we resort to comfort food as a way of keeping our body warm, find it difficult to get out of the coziness of our homes and end up exercising less. Several people also become victims of winter depression and end up eating and sleeping more. All these can cause a spike in the number of complications suffered by people with existing lifestyle diseases namely hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. This holds particularly true for women, who are more prone to winter induced diseases.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr. K K Aggarwal – President HCFI and Honorary Secretary General IMA said, “Winter brings with it a host of medical problems specially for women. It is a known fact that hospital admissions during the winter months go up drastically. The reasons for this include the increased incidence of Vitamin D deficiency due to the tendency of people to spend most of their hours indoors, winter induced depression and obesity, as well as a 50% added risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is important that awareness is raised and adequate prevention measures taken by women in the high risk category.”
Some of the common health problems women might face during the winter months include:
1. Heart Attacks and Strokes: Heart disease kills more women than any other disease in our country including breast and cervical cancer. Stroke and heart disease-related hospitalizations and deaths rise by more than 50 percent during the winter months. It is important that women with pre-existing lifestyle diseases, or those at high risk of heart disease should consult their doctors at the onset of the winters for a revised dosage of medicines. They should also consume a healthy diet comprising of ample fruits and vegetables. Smoking, a diet comprising of red meat and alcohol consumption should be avoided. Regular aerobic exercise at warmer hours is highly recommended.
2. Seasonal Affective Depression: This condition is characterized by experiencing episodes of depression every year, but only during the winter. What the exact cause of this is still unknown but it is believed that a low body temperature, scarcity of sunlight and hormone fluctuations play an important role. Women are more prone to winter depression than men and have a tendency to indulge in high calorie comfort food to beat the winter blues. This can be extremely dangerous for people suffering from obesity, heart disease and hypertension. It is important that a person consumes a healthy diet and gets adequate exercise to avoid complications.
3. Hypothermia: Hypothermia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low body temperature and can occur in cold weather. The reason for this is when the temperatures dip; our body looses heat faster than it can create. The condition is usually hidden with no evident symptoms. If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, one needs to seek emergency medical care immediately in order to avoid death. It is thus recommended that during extremely cold days, everyone must stay warmly clad specially children and the elderly.
4. Vitamin D Deficiency: Indians are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter month given that they spend most of their time in indoor spaces. Women especially housewives often do not step out in the winter months to avoid the cold weather. This deprives them of Vitamin D, which is synthesized from the rays of the sun. Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, a strong immune system, and a healthy heart. It also helps prevent deadly diseases such as cancer. It is extremely important that all women ensure that they spend time out in the sun on a daily basis in the winter months. Supplementation is also advised to avoid health complications.
5. Influenza: Seasonal Flu is very common during the winter and has the potential to be life threatening specially for high-risk individuals. It is thus recommended that the flu shot should be taken in consultation with ones physician.