Beat The Cold-weather Blues With Our Complete Wellness Guide
Every winter sees the whole family either sniffling or nursing the flu, not to mention respiratory diseases, heart ailments and cold-weather headaches. Here’s what to do to keep you and your family healthy—and happy—through the chilly months
Heart Disease & Stroke
Winter temperatures can be harsh on people with heart ailments. “Cold weather may cause blood vessels to contract, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart attacks or strokes,” says Dr Ravi Gupta, cardiologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai. Likewise, heart problems, such as angina or chest pain, can also worsen when the mercury falls. “Our own eight-year study shows an increase in the number of coronary-care admissions in the winter months,” says Dr Ganesh Kumar, head of Interventional Cardiology at Dr L. H. Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.
What To Do: Exercise regularly and get some sun to control BP and boost your vitamin-D levels. Include heart-friendly foods such as berries, avocados, leafy-green vegetables, beans and whole grains in your daily diet.
“Flu and bacterial infections intensify during winter, so it’s important to get flu and pneumonia shots before the season starts. Your breakfast should be wholesome and healthy because if your immune system is weak, you’re more susceptible to infections. Add lots of high-protein foods, cereals, fruits and fibre in your diet. Citrus fruits are especially beneficial,” says Dr Partha Pratim Bose, founder of Saans, a respiratory and sleep-disorder institute in New Delhi. Also, remember to drink sufficient fluids through the day to flush out toxins. Bose advises people with respiratory issues to take extra precaution: “Avoid stepping outside as much as possible and remember to adjust your medication. Wear an anti-pollution mask, keep indoor pollution levels in check with an air purifier and inhale steam from saline water.” Clear respiratory passages of infection-causing germs by performing a saline-water nasal wash, inhaling steam and gargling, Bose recommends.
What To Do: Use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs to avoid reinfecting yourself when you have a cold. Onion, garlic and ginger paste, which is full of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, can clear up a cough. Mulethi (liquorice root) and honey are also very effective.
Poor circulation in the blood vessels of your hands and feet can cause a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon. Blood vessels in these areas constrict due to the cold, cutting off normal blood flow in your extremities, such as fingers and toes. Wear gloves and socks while going out to keep them warm. Avoid caffeine (read: too much tea or coffee) and smoking to prevent worsening of pain caused by this condition.
What To Do: Choose green or herbal tea instead of milky tea and coffee to stay warm.
Those with arthritis, experience increased joint pain in winter. “What gives relief is a massage with medicated oils,” says Dr Issac Mathai, founder of SOUKYA, Bengaluru. Also, dress warmly, exercise and spend some time basking in the sun.
What To Do: Low-impact aerobic moves such as walking, yoga and tai chi are easy on the joints.
Wheezing, sneezing and hay fever worsen in winter. People with asthma and chronic allergies, such as bronchitis, allergic rhinitis and sinusitis, are especially vulnerable. Consult your doctor before-hand to fine-tune your medication dosage. Minimize exposure to the cold by layering up in warm clothes and avoid exposure to early-morning smog or po-lluted areas. Instead, take a walk when it is sunny.
What To Do: Eat fruits rich in vitamin C such as oranges, grapes and so on. They help fight cold by boosting immunity.
“My skin feels dry and stretchy, in spite of using a moisturizer twice a day,” complains Gurugram-based teenager Gayatri Sarin. Dry skin tends to worsen when environmental humidity is low. So rather than try different kinds of moisturizers, focus on when to use it. Apply right after bathing, when your skin is still damp, to lock in the moisture.
What To Do: Prevent your skin from getting dehydrated by bathing in lukewarm, rather than hot, water. Also, use a moisture-rich soap or shower gel with hydrating ingredients such as honey, oats, aloe vera or cocoa butter.
Congestive headaches in winter are also fairly common. Keeping your head covered while outdoors and getting enough exercise can keep these at bay. A quick and natural remedy for relieving headaches is to take a hot and cold footbath, by immersing the feet in cold water for two minutes, followed by hot water for three minutes, for a total of 30 minutes. It sounds cumbersome but does wonders in preventing those annoying winter headaches.
What To Do: A whiff of eucalyptus essential oil gives quick relief from headaches.
Pomegranate: This fruit is rich in antioxidants and can improve blood flow to the heart.
Leafy Greens: Spinach, broccoli and other dark-green veggies are rich in vitamins A, C and K.
Citrus Fruits: Orange, Indian gooseberry and other citrus fruits have high levels of vitamin C, which helps lower bad cholesterol.
Root Veggies: Full of fibre, veggies such as sweet potato, beetroot and even potatoes are good for the gut and digestion.
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sunflower seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Pears: This fruit is a good source of copper, and vitamins B2 and E, and also the water-soluble fibre known as pectin.
Cauliflower: This cruciferous vegetable is rich in vitamins C and K and is a great substitute for starchy foods.