Winter Health Tips

Winter Health Tips

Winter is here and, much like your automobile, there are some preventive health adjustments you need to make to ensure you avoid health issues.  Here are five easy tasks that will help you stay healthy over the next several months.

1. Start taking Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a key role in your body’s absorption of calcium and is needed for healthy bones and muscles and to prevent fractures in the elderly.  Recent research suggests that vitamin D may also have benefits in fighting infections, reducing heart disease risk factors, and preventing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancers (especially colorectal cancer).

Vitamin D is often called the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, as our skin is able to make the vitamin when exposed to the sun. Unfortunately, during the winter months UV radiation from the sun is weak, and the season’s short days, and long nights can put Canadians at risk of not getting enough of this essential vitamin.

There is debate among researchers as to whether the current recommended daily dose of Vitamin is too low for optimal health.  If you are concerned about adequate Vitamin D levels, you should discuss supplementation with your healthcare provider.

2. Get the flu shot

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and in some instances, can lead to death. Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Ontario provides the influenza vaccine free-of-charge to all residents. In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons.

3. See a travel health specialist 4- 6 weeks prior to your winter vacation

Canadians love to travel, and especially love to travel to warm destinations to escape our harsh winters. However – beware, even a short getaway to the Caribbean or Mexico can bring with it the risk of serious illnesses. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you scheduled a visit to a travel medicine provider 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks. Even if you’ve had vaccinations when you’ve traveled before, you will still benefit from a visit to a travel clinic, as the recommendations may have changed or you may need a booster for a vaccine you already have been given.

4. Increase your intake of water

Staying hydrated in the winter can be more difficult than staying hydrated in the summer. Hot weather and sweating in the summer can be triggers for drinking water; however, these triggers are not present during the winter.   Your body loses moisture every day and it is important to stay hydrated during the winter. The average adult needs about 3 litres of water per day.

5. Maintain your physical activity

It is easy and pleasant to go for bike rides or walks during the summer. However, during the winter many people tend to hibernate and reduce their physical activity. It is especially important to keep up your activity during the winter. So, consider joining a gym or spin class to maintain your health during the winter.