Winter Woes

Winter Woes

Winter may be the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be a difficult time for a woman's health. The days are getting shorter, the trees are empty and bare, the temperature is falling, and a number of maladies can arrive at this time. Influenza is always a menace, but there are other women's health issues that are also common during the winter that most women may not consider.

Heart Disease

Heart disease takes more female lives than breast cancer, cervical cancer, or any other disease. In certain countries, heart disease and stroke deaths soar by over 50 percent during the wintertime. Many believe the weather is the cause, and others feel that the longer nights and shorter days might interfere with heart-related hormones.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people can feel low during the winter, but others have more severe bouts of depression all of the time. They may suffer from low energy, sleep problems, loss of appetite and reduced concentration, which can affect the ability to function at work or home. Seasonal affective disorder or SAD, refers to people who have clinical depressions only during the autumn and winter seasons. In the winter when there is less sunlight our serotonin levels may be lower. Once spring and summer arrive, they often notice their symptoms improving. The exact cause is has yet to be discovered, but it is believed that body temperature, ambient light, and hormone regulation play a role. Often, artificial sun lamps can help.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Those who live in areas where it is mostly dark and cold in the winter are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, also known as Rickets. Vitamin D helps the body control calcium and phosphate levels. Vitamin D is absorbed from food or produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. If the blood levels of these minerals become too low, the body may produce hormones that cause calcium and phosphate to be released from the bones. This leads to weak and soft bones. A study conducted by Harvard discovered that about 60 percent of Americans could have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for bone, immune system, and heart health.

Weight Gain

Like many people, you may notice the scale go up during the winter months.

With the continuous celebratory eating that begins around Thanksgiving and chomps through New Year's, it’s obvious why many people experience weight gain during this season. The good news is that the dreary weather need not add inches to your waistline.

The winter holiday season can be a particularly hard time of year due to emotional and financial pressure. Those stresses can add to winter cravings for your favorite comfort foods. Often cravings for carbohydrates such as breads, chocolate, sweets, or potato chips will increase in the winter especially when sunlight and serotonin levels are down. Carbs stimulate the release of insulin which lowers the blood levels of all amino acids except tryptophan. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin. Serotonin regulates sleep, and generally calms you down and improves your mood. Carbohydrates can also add extra holiday bulk. Remember that cravings are only a feeling , they are not commands..


Along with the regular family holiday craziness, dealing with rising heat bills and winter weather issues, the coldest months add up to a lot of stress. Cortisol is one of your body's important hormones, and helps such functions as glucose metabolism, as well as regulation of blood pressure and insulin. It’s referred to as the “stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher amounts during higher levels of stress. When your Cortisol levels soar, your weight often follows suit. When you’re stressed, you are less apt to make healthier choices.

Stay Cool, Sleep Better

Don’t crank up the thermostat during a cold winter's night. To help enjoy a good night’s sleep, keep your bedroom temperature a cool 60 to 68 degrees. Columbia University researchers found that those who get less than five hours of sleep are 50% more likely to be obese than those who sleep 7 to 9 hours per night. Also, don't pile on the blankets. Lower room temperatures are more conducive to quality sleep. Research has shown that you get your best sleep when your core body temperature drops. If your body is too warm, heat dumping can't occur normally, making it difficult to fall asleep.

It’s tempting to burrow into your down comforter during a cold night, but being too warm can actually keep you from dozing off, which can spell bad news for your belly.

The flu is very common during the winter and has the potential to be deadly. This viral infection will invade and attack your respiratory system. Getting your flu shot in the fall can help to prevent the flu. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can not only help to prevent it, but can make the illness easier to handle if you do catch it.

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