Irish Pastoral Centre Senior Notes - Hidden health dangers of Winter and staying safe

Eileen - celebrating her recent graduation at the IPC.
Eileen celebrating her recent graduation at the IPC.

Hidden Health Dangers of Winter

Christmas is and should be a joyous time of the year. However there are some dangers and increased health risks at this time of year. We should all be mindful of the following;
Heart attack and stroke

Many winter heart attacks aren't from the sudden exertion of shoveling snow. While the number of heart attacks does spike in the winter — by some estimates there are 53 percent more now than in the summer — that's true all across the country, including in some Sunbelt states that never see a snowflake. It's winter's cold, not just snow, that poses the threat. Our arteries respond to cold by constricting, and that makes us more prone to heart attacks. British researchers found that falling temperatures of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit in a single day resulted in a 2 percent rise in the number of heart attacks that occurred during the next two weeks. Moreover, as we age, the cold hits us harder.
A very happy group at Cafe Eireann.
A very happy group at Cafe Eireann.
Winter blues
Shorter days with less sunlight bring a greater risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter. Symptoms include loss of energy, anxiety, oversleeping, social withdrawal and weight gain. This is usually treated with the exposure to artificial light or perhaps a trip of Ireland where it is always sunny!!
Lung problems
Cold weather tends to bring out more respiratory problems, such as asthma and a greater risk of pneumonia. Emphysema may also worsen in the winter, as cold and dry air narrows airways, restricting airflow into and out of the lungs to make breathing more difficult.
It doesn't help that winter makes it tougher to keep up our heart-healthy habits. "You really need to engage in regular exercise during cold weather, but many people don't," says Blumenthal. "Maybe you can't walk outside when it's too cold, but you should do home exercises — perhaps get a treadmill." Using an exercise video is also another fun option!
Stay Safe in Winter
Marie Burke, Celtic Angels at the IPC with Jo Lacey.
· When it's freezing and or icy, postpone outdoor activities. Exercise indoors, catch up on some reading or other activities!
· Sleep in. Heart attacks occur more often in the morning. But it gets darker earlier in the winter, so people tend to be more active on winter mornings. Postpone physical activities — walking, cleaning, and shoveling snow - until later in the day.
· For any winter activity, start slowly and don't overdo it. Short intervals of activity alternating with periods of indoor rest are best.
· Dress warmly — wear hat, gloves and scarf — especially if you have high blood pressure: "When you shiver or feel uncomfortable, it can raise your heart rate and blood pressure," says Roger Blumenthal of Johns Hopkins.
· If you start a winter exercise regimen — many do as part of their New Year's resolutions — talk to your doctor first. Start slowly.
· Watch what you eat and drink. People eat, drink and smoke more — and gain more weight — over the winter holidays. This can cause irregular heartbeat and other cardiovascular risks. Be moderate in all things.
Please feel free to call Eileen at 617 265 5300 x13 for more information on IPC Senior Citizen Outreach Program activities and services.

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