Winterize your body

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.

The holidays may be gone, but real winter's just getting its mojo going. Yep, temperatures that don't budge on the thermometer and the biggest cold-and-flu months are all ahead. Relax. If you winterize your body the YOU Docs way, you'll protect yourself and your family against cold weather's underrated — and unsuspected — health hazards: higher blood pressure, lower moods, heart attacks and more.

1. The threat: Seasonal spikes in lousy cholesterol

The fix: Blame it on the thermometer, comfort food cravings or the chocolate truffles Aunt Bessie sent. Whatever the cause, lousy LDL cholesterol increases in winter. The July versus January difference is 4-5 points, enough to boost heart-threatening gunk in artery walls. Clean it out by regularly reaching for fiber-packed seasonal goodies: a bowlful of oatmeal every morning (its soluble fiber does some serious housekeeping in your arteries), juicy Clementine oranges for afternoon snacks, winter squash for dinner (sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg).

2. The threat: Getting cold to the bone

The fix: No one would go coatless when the mercury hits sub-zero, but we're amazed by how often people underdress when the thermometer's in the 30s. You can lose so much body heat that you wind up in our ERs, shivering uncontrollably, unable to warm up. It's called hypothermia, and it can be scary, even fatal. Adding/subtracting layers lets you regulate your body temperature, so you don't get deep-chilled or overheated and sweaty — also risky in cold weather.

3. The threat: Winter doldrums

The fix: Short days, long nights and watery sunlight can leave you feeling less than merry and bright. Give your mood a "vaccine" with brisk lunchtime walks, when the winter sun's at its strongest. A half-hour a day can be all it takes to prevent or relieve depression. Make a regular walking date with a pal. It gives both of you a reason to get out there and someone to laugh with. If you think you've got even borderline seasonal affective disorder (depression due to winter's gloomy levels of sunlight levels), invest in a blue frequencies bright lamp designed to lift SAD.

4. The threat: Serial colds and flu

The fix: Cold temperatures and low humidity are the influenza virus's favorite weather. A flu shot (it's still not too late), frequent hand-washing and pulling out the sanitizer when you can't get to a sink are your first-line defenses. So is taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, which cuts your flu risk in half. Get eight solid hours of sleep nightly to head off colds — and winter weight gain, too. Staying up playing Angry Birds till all hours (and likely noshing while you're at it) leaves you five times more likely to wind up sneezing — and shopping for elastic-waist jeans.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show" and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of "YOU: Losing Weight." For more information go to

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