Winter Brain Woes

Winter gloom, usually associated with dark, cold days, almost no sunshine and freezing temperatures is a rarity in tropical climes. However, ‘winter brain blues’ do not spare us entirely. Certain conditions related to our brain are known to aggravate with the dip in temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SADis a depressive condition that is known to increase with rising cold. People who are susceptible tochronic depression are likely to be hit by this condition more when the weather is cold and gloomy. It usually occurs in a person around the same time each year. The person becomes moody and typically suffers from complete lack of energy.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed almost at all times
  • No interest in daily activities
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having problems with sleep or over sleeping
  • Suffer from eating disorders – always or never hungry
  • Having weight problems
  • Feeling restless or sluggish
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Having thoughts of suicide

Usually there is a tendency to ignore symptoms of SAD. Most people think the feeling of depression will subside by itself given time. But one should understand that this is a condition that needs treatment.

When to see a Doctor?
It is normal to feel low once in a while, but if the feeling of depression persists for a few days, or you feel restless and have an urge to turn to alcohol for consolation, then you need to visit the Doctor. Treatment may include:

  • Phototherapy (light therapy)
  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy

Chronic neurological conditions
Nerve Pain
People with any condition that affects the nerves, like low back pain, neuropathy, neuralgia etc., are likely to experiencing a worsening of their discomfiture index. Muscle stiffness and loss of sensation are also common problems in winter.

People with chronic neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease andMultiple schelerosis are more prone to catching infections like influenza during the winter months.

Brain Stroke
Studies have suggested that a sudden drop in temperature may be related to an increase in incidences of stroke. However, this is more likely in the countries where winter is extreme. Stroke in winter is often a result of infections, lack of sunlight, depression, or increased inactivity.
You can guard against the increased risk of stroke by following certain basic preventive steps like control exposure to infections by keeping hands clean/sanitized, avoid moving out in early morning or late evening when the weather is at its coldest, wear warm clothes, use heaters to keep internal spaces warm, keep on doing light exercises inside it is too cold to move outand keep yourself hydrated.

Breathe easy this winter

asthmaThere was a time when our Bollywood films associated severe illness with a wracking, unrelenting cough, which usually signaled an end-stage respiratory disease for the protagonist, who would be bed-ridden unable to perform even the basic daily activities. Changing thoughts and growing awareness later saw an evolution and progressively we had characters suffering from asthma/COPD who could not only go about their daily activities, but were capable of quite a few acrobatics, including battling the goons, not letting a little breathing difficulty get in the way!
Respiratory disease is a thing of much worry today, increasing pollution being the main culprit in the growing instance of asthma and chronic COPD the world over. The figures have taken on alarming proportions in India, with the country topping the list of lung disease death statistics. Yet, ironically, it is a condition that can be controlled with a little care and lot of awareness. Celebrated personalities in fields of sports, cinema, music and politics like David Beckham, Sharon Stone, Amy Winehouse, John F Kennedy and our very own Amitabh Bachhan and Priyanka Chopra have led productive happy lives, in spite of being asthma patients. They have shown us how not to let a condition rule your life and overcome it with a little bit of care and understanding.

Winter respiratory woes
As winter sets in and the temperature drops, there is a nip in the air and it becomes drier. For people with asthma, COPD, or bronchitis this dry air means throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Does the cold weather aggravate Respiratory Disorder?
To an extent, yes. Our airways are lined with a thin layer of fluid, and when we inhale dry air that fluid evaporates quicker than normal. In some cases, the fluid evaporates faster than it can be replaced. This causes the throat to become dry, whichoften leads to irritation and swelling thatcould worsen the symptoms of COPD and asthma.
Cold weather also increases mucus production. Mucus is the protective layer of the throat, but the kind produced in cold conditions is often thicker and stickier than normal. This can cause blockages in the respiratory system and also increasethe chance of catching a cold or other infections.

Increase in air pollution add to respiratory woes
Air pollution worsens during winter. Pollutants from household heating, vehicle exhausts, and other industrial pollutants circulate closer to the earth’s surface as the warm layer of air prevents it from passing through.Cold air being denser and heavier, settles close to the surface of the earth. This causes the symptoms of asthma or congestive problems to worsenduring this season.

Tips For Dealing With Cold Weather
For people with respiratory problems, it may be wise to take extra precautions during these months to avoid an onset of symptoms. Let’s look at a few precautions:

  • Take all medication as prescribed: If you have a respiratory condition, then it is wise to do this always. But in the cold months, even a little carelessness can cost you dear.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf: Wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth warms the air before it gets to the lungs. This can help prevent the symptoms associated with cold, dry air.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out from your mouth: Your nose has blood vessels that warm and humidify the air before it gets to your lungs. Increased mouth inhalation brings the irritating cold, dry air straight to your lungs.
  • Avoid outdoor exercise in the cold: If you suffer from respiratory problems, then outdoor exercise in severe cold weather can really hurt your lungs. As your breathing and heart rate increase during strenuous exercise, people tend to inhale through their mouth, which makes your insides dry leading to irritation and swelling.
  • Keep quick-relief medication on hand: If you begin to display respiratory symptoms, it can be very helpful to have quick-relief medicine nearby and accessible.
  • Monitor the forecast: Being prepared is a great way to prevent respiratory symptoms. Make sure you dress weather appropriate. Carry a scarf if you need to. If you get cold then your immune system slows down and makes you more susceptible to lung infections.
Don’t let the winter chill touch your Heart


Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens Doorbells and sleighbells& schnitzel with noodles
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes Silver white winter that melt into spring These are a few of my favourite things…

Singing paeans to her favouritewinter thingsin the film Sound of Music, Maria may have been reminiscing only about Austria, but winter is a time for fun and festivity the world over. The winter chill brings joyous tidings and happiness for most, but trouble for others who are suffering from or are susceptible to ailments that are common in winter. Heart woes can increase with the dip in temperature, particularly for those with diagnosed heart conditions or with increased risk factors like old age, smokers, family history, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Heart woes in winter
Cold weather is known to increase blood pressure and raise cholesterol levels—two key risk factors for heart attack. For people suffering from some or the other heart condition, winter can be a time for more woes than fun. The risk increases with age (people over 65), or for a person who has already had a heart attack.

As temperatures drop, your blood vessels tighten and blood flow speeds up to help you stay warm. Hence your blood pressure is often higher in colder seasons. A very rapid change in the weather (sudden drop in temperature) can also cause your blood vessels to constrict or narrow. If you already have narrowed blood vessels because of underlying heart disease, cold temperatures can cause further constriction, thus restricting the flow of blood to theheart.

A heart attack is a rare and extreme outcome of this condition, however, in people with underlying risk factors for heart disease, the disruption in blood circulation is likely to trigger angina(pain in the chest), which is a symptom of coronary artery disease. Furthermore, your heart has to work extra hard to maintain a healthy body temperature, the winter makes this very difficult as the body loses heat more quickly. Cholesterol levels appear to rise in midwinter, too which may lead to heart related issues.

During cold weather, the chance of catching the flu (seasonal influenza) increases. The flu can be more serious for people with heart conditions, as it makes your heart work much harder.

How to keep your heart healthy this winter

  • Maintain a heart-healthy diet, get regular aerobic exercise and reduce stress
  • Manage heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, and tobacco use
  • Protect yourself from the cold temperatures and elements by dressing in layers and wearing appropriate clothing
  • If you already have cardiovascular disease, avoid strenuous activities or exercise
  • If you experience shortness of breath or chest discomfort, especially with activity, seek medical attention immediately to rule out a heart or blood vessel related problem

A little care can go a long way in keeping heart problems under control. Take care to keep the medications and emergency number handy if you have a heart patient at home.

joint pain

jointpainMrs Dixit, ‘Dixit Miss’ to hundreds of her students who still remember her as their ramrod straight, elegant teacher of history who was much respected and loved. Now touching 80, the elderly lady has to walk with support, as movement has become very painful owing to arthritis. Mrs Dixit lost her husband to a brain stroke a few years back, and with her daughter settled in Bangalore, she now lives alone. She manages with household help, and the spirited old lady has not let the pitfalls of life affect her. However, lately chronic pain has restricted her movements severely and she is finding it difficult to even perform simple activities like cooking and gardening which keep her happy…
A Mrs Dixit exists is almost every household in our country. With age comes gray hair, wisdom and joint pain! Arthritis, however, is not restricted only to the elderly. Increasingly younger people are becoming victims of the condition that was earlier equated with growing older. And winter is the time when aching joints begin giving more trouble. Dipping temperatures increase the chances of swelling and fluid build-up in joints.

What causes joint pain?
Arthritis is the most common reason for joint pain. It mainly affects wrists, hands, hips and knees. The two main kinds are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The former is more common in the elderly popular. Rheumatoid arthritis affects women more than men and can be debilitating. It causes inflammation and fluid built up in joins causing severe pain.

What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage. Joints are covered by a protective tissue called cartilage. Cartilage helps in keeping the movement of the joint fluid. When this cartilage breaks down, it causes the bones that form the joint to rub against each other, which in turn results in stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative disease as it usually occurs in older people as a natural process of wear and tear. It is a condition that can occur in any joint in the body. The areas most commonly affected, however, are hands, fingertips, knees, hips and spine.

What is Rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder. When immune systems mistake the soft lining around joints to be threat and attack them, it causes fluid build-up in the joints leading to stiffness and pain. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect more than just your joints. It can affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.

Symptoms include:

  •  Warm, tender, swollen joints
  •  Stiffness in joints that worsens after a period of inactivity
  •  Weight loss, extreme tiredness and losing weight

The severity of the symptoms vary from person to person and may increase and decrease.
Other causes of joint pain

  • Lupus
  • Gout
  • Damage due to injury
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infections like mumps, influenza, hepatitis
  • Cancer
  • Tendinitis

When do you need to see a Doctor?
When you have unexplained joint pain, you should see a Doctor. Redness or swelling in the area around the joints, along with severe pain that persists for more than three days, needs medical attention. Emergency treatment may be required if:

  • You have injured yourself
  • The joint appears to be disfigured
  • Joint swelling occurs suddenly
  • Joint becomes completely immobile
  • The pain is intolerable

How do I manage my joint pain at home?
Please remember chronic joint pain cannot be eliminated. However, you can partly manage it to keep the pain under tolerable limits with some simple home remedies

  • Pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs can help
  • Stay physically active, regular light exercises help keep the pain at bay
  • Stretching helps in increasing mobility of joints
  • Keep your body weight under control. Obesity increases pressure on the joints
  • If the pain is not due to arthritis, then a massage, hot bath and adequate rest may help

How is joint pain treated medically?
The Doctor may need to draw out the accumulated fluid to reduce inflammation. He/she might give you some medication and suggest lifestyle changes to manage your pain. Depending on the severity of the condition or effectiveness of non-invasive treatment, the Doctor may suggest surgical replacement of joint.

How to deal with winter joint woes?
Some basic precautions like keeping yourself well covered, warm compressions and regular light exercises will keep your joints protected against the cold. Keep yourself well hydrated.

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