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How to Have the Healthiest Winter Ever

If you live in Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, or any other northern state you’re probably accustomed to dealing with the frigid temperatures of winter. The rest of us, however, wind up frozen in our steps when we have to deal with unfamiliar arctic blasts. Though the novelty of snowball fights and sledding downhill is fun for a while, the bone-chilling cold soon has us searching for a warm spot by the fire.

And another thing . . . unless you’re among the fortunate who enjoy a tropical climate year-round, you probably know first hand how cold weather can bring about unwelcomed changes in your health and your mood. The good news is there are several steps you can take to stay healthy and in bright spirits during the winter months.

The crucial vitamin that combats winter maladies.

Surprisingly enough, there are still people who believe that simply being out in the winter weather will cause you to catch a cold or the flu. However, it’s not the cold temperature that makes you more susceptible, but possibly a deficit in one critical vitamin . . . vitamin D. There’s a greater prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the winter season because getting outdoors and basking in the sunlight is a little bit more difficult to do. If you’re vitamin D deficient, the possibility of you coming down with a respiratory ailment will dramatically increase, no matter what state you live in.

According to Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, cold and flu appear to be symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. In order to keep most respiratory infections at bay, it’s important you keep your levels optimized. People with emphysema or asthma are particularly susceptible. The higher your vitamin D level, the lower your chance of coming down with respiratory tract infections such as a cold or flu. If you want to make sure your levels are up to par, the best way to optimize is to take a good vitamin D supplement. Before you do that however, make sure you get your vitamin D levels tested first.

But dealing with the coughs and sniffles isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. Heart attacks are more prevalent during the winter months. As a matter of fact there’s a 2% increase for every 1°C drop in temperature. Cold winter temperatures can also worsen high blood pressure, which can lead to heart failure and stroke. But . . . the super vitamin, “D” has proven heart benefits, just one more reason to make sure you’re getting all you need.

The wintertime blues.

Many people struggle with depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because the longer winter nights mean less daytime sun. For this reason experts suggest using light therapy to alleviate the symptoms. Vitamin D comes into play here as well, so if you’re suffering from either SAD or depression it is really important to optimize your vitamin D levels.

And because people tend to exercise less than the winter months, stress levels tend to increase. Even though it’s hard to go outside and brave the elements you can still exercise at home with a good exercise DVD or Wii game.

To safeguard your emotional health during the cold winter, you may be surprised to learn changing your diet can help. Although it’s tempting to eat fattening comfort foods, carbohydrate-laden treats can knock your blood sugar level off-kilter. The result is that you may feel irritable and cranky. Incorporate more mood boosting foods like vegetables, Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and foods that contain B vitamins into your diet instead.

While it may be hard to do, make an extra effort to socialize. Spending time with a friend or coworker over lunch can do a lot to boost your mood during dreary winter months. And get outdoors as often as you can. Not only will it boost your vitamin D and serotonin levels, essential for both your physical and emotional health, enjoying brisk winter air for 20 minutes provides needed vigor during the sluggish winter months.  Plus, it gives you plenty of time to start a good snowball fight!

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