19 Surprising Ways Fall Weather Impacts Your Health
The changing of seasons has a big impact on your body.
Between the apple picking festivities, the not-too-chilly sweater weather, and the pumpkin-flavored everything, fall is an easy season to love. One thing you might not realize, though, is that the change in temperature has some effects on your health, too—some for the better, and some for the worse. Here are 19 surprising ways fall weather affects your wellbeing, according to the experts.
Your risk of heart attack increases.
Your heart definitely isn't a fan of that chill in the air. "In colder weather, we typically see rates of heart attacks go up," says New York City-based internist and cardiologist Edo Paz, MD, a doctor with K Health. "There are various reasons for this, including increased blood pressure and increased risk of blood clots. The best way to mitigate this risk is to dress warm."
Your eyes get dry.
The cold, dry air of the fall has a tendency to dry your eyes out and leave a burning sensation in its wake. "Seasonal changes like dryer air make dry eye worse," according to the experts at Piedmont Eye Care in Charlotte, North Carolina. That's because they either "cannot produce enough tears or they produce low-quality tears."
When your eyes are begging for moisture, you can get some relief by using artificial tears or getting some eye drops from your doctor. The optometrists at Piedmont also suggest getting a humidifier, protecting your eyes outside with either a hat or sunglasses, staying hydrated, taking breaks from screen time, and trading in your contacts for glasses.
Your skin becomes cracked and dry.
Cold weather doesn't just bring on eye dryness. It also dries out your skin, says Paz. To combat the problem—and make sure you're not itchy and cracked all season long—use plenty of lotion, load up on sunscreen, and skip the long, hot showers and baths, which only dry your skin out even more.
You experience more aches and pains.
Always feel more achy in the colder months? You're not alone. Research has shown there may be an association between colder temperatures and an increase in aches and pains, particularly in the back and neck areas.
There are multiple theories behind this, but one prominent one, according to University of Chicago Medicine rheumatologist Anisha Dua, MD, MPH, is because of the "drops in barometric pressure, which causes tendons, muscles, and the surrounding tissues to expand." According to Dua, "because of the confined space within the body, this can cause pain, especially in joints affected by arthritis."
Your vitamin D levels plummet.
In the summertime, all that sunshine you absorb gives you more than enough vitamin D. However, once the season shifts, that's not quite the case anymore.
"In the fall, our vitamin D levels fall rapidly," says Kristine Blanche, PhD, RPA-C, owner of the New York-based Integrative Healing Center. According to Blanche, as your vitamin D levels fall, you're not only more susceptible to colds and the flu, but this can also affect your hormone levels. "Vitamin D is a pre-hormone and helps the sex hormones—like DHEA and testosterone—stay at healthy levels," she says. "Low levels of the sex hormones can affect the sex drive, as well as motivation to do work, hobbies, and even work out."
You feel depressed.
Fall should bring on joy in the form of fun family-centric holidays and cozy movie nights by the fire. However, it's also known to bring on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which "can cause depression symptoms typically due to less exposure to sunlight," says Paz. His advice? "Stick to a regular workout routine" to keep your endorphin levels up.
And you lack energy, too.
SAD doesn't just affect your mood. It also affects your energy levels. Along with making you depressed, the seasonal disorder can also cause you to feel sluggish and agitated come fall, according to the Mayo Clinic. If this is the case for you, chat with your doctor about treatment options so the changing seasons don't dampen your spirits.
You have trouble breathing.
Once the air gets cold, you might have a harder time breathing. According to the American Lung Association, cold, dry air can irritate the airways of those who are already dealing with breathing issues from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you know you have airway issues, always make sure you're bundling up and avoid exercising outdoors when the air is especially dry.
You're at a higher risk of getting sick.
When the temperature drops and you're spending more time indoors, you're at a higher risk of coming down with a cold or the flu. According to Berkeley Wellness in at the University of California, people pick up viruses in the fall not from the weather itself, but from the subsequent time spent indoors in close proximity to others. Of course, sitting within close range of someone who's sick increases your chances of picking up their germs.
Your allergies take a turn.
Your allergies are inevitably going to be impacted by the fall weather. However, whether that's for the better or for the worse depends on what exactly you're allergic to.
"The arrival of fall weather will bring relief for some, and a worsening of symptoms for others," says California-based physician Alexandra Stockwell, MD. "Anyone who suffers from an allergy to pollen will start to feel some relief when temperatures drop, humidity improves, and pollen is no longer in the air. And for anyone allergic to mold, the fall weather can exacerbate symptoms. Mold thrives in leaf piles, compost piles, and anywhere organic matter is decomposing. Because it's airborne, you can be negatively impacted by mold from surrounding areas."
You get more headaches.
It's not uncommon for cold weather to cause headaches. That's because, according to the Mayo Clinic, the fall season is full of migraine triggers, ranging from dry air to barometric pressure changes.
You sleep better.
When you get enough sleep every night, your mood improves, your energy levels increase, and you have fewer junk food cravings. And the transition from summer to fall could be the key to finally helping you get on a solid sleep schedule.
"Going to bed earlier as it gets dark earlier results in better quality sleep, better insulin control, and feeling rested enough to work out the next day," says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition in Miami Gardens, Florida. It's a win in the bedroom that translates to more success in the kitchen, at the gym, and pretty much everywhere else.
You experience hair loss.
According to The Choe Center For Hair Restoration in Virginia Beach, Virginia, people typically lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day. However, in the fall months—typically in October and November—this number tends to be closer to 100. If you notice some extra shedding in the shower or when you're brushing your hair in the fall, it's likely nothing to worry about.
Your diet could get better.
During the summer months, it's fun to get out and enjoy the warm weather at outdoor bars and restaurants. In the fall, however, you're much more inclined to make the most of your kitchen, which is great news for both your wellbeing and your waistline.
"The cooler temperatures make fall a great time to hit up the farmers' markets and add some local and seasonal foods into your diet," says Sheli Msall, RDN, the dietitian behind Nutritionista Abroad. "It's also a fun season to cook and bake in, as you don't mind warming up the kitchen now that it's getting cooler outside."
Or you might pack on the pounds.
While fall can bring on healthy eating habits, the change in season can also have the opposite effect. "When the weather turns colder, we generally adjust our eating styles to warm comfort foods associated with family events and holidays," says Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, family and preventive medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health in Loma Linda, California. "This often can result in more hot and sugary drinks, hot soups laden with saturated fat and salt, and, of course fruit pies with sugar, saturated fat, and refined flour."
Luckily, Rea says that these comfort foods can easily be replaced with similar—and much healthier!—alternatives that are just as satisfying. "Hot sugary drinks can be replaced with hot green tea or lemon water; soups can have less salt and no added fats while still maintaining a fabulous taste; and fruit can be consumed fresh and made into a fruit compote with dates for sweetening," she suggests. And speaking of teas…
You could inadvertently be warding off inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can lead to a long list of health problems, from heart disease to autoimmune disorders. The good news? Having the urge to sip on some tea during the chilly fall months could help fight it off. "Fall teas and spices are anti-inflammatory," says Moreno. Sip on green tea, turmeric tea, and ginger tea for the best results.
You might become more active.
During the summer, the sun is strong—often too strong to allow for a run or any other type of outdoor workout. Once fall hits, though, the weather cools down a little, making it a great time to up your activity levels before winter hibernation hits.
"As the weather cools, it's a perfect opportunity to bike, walk, or run outside in the crisp fall weather—especially in the mornings before work and on weekends," says Moreno. "Who doesn't like to ogle the beautiful foliage?"
But you could also become more sedentary.
Though for some people the tepid temperatures of fall are ideal for outdoor activities, for others, it's quite the opposite. The cooler weather could send you straight into hibernation-mode, causing you to abandon your exercising habits in favor of lounging on the couch.
If you're avoiding the outdoors, make sure you're at least incorporating some at-home exercises into your routine. There are plenty of different apps, online workout programs, and free videos on YouTube to take advantage of.
You're amped up on oxytocin.
"With lower temperatures and a drop in humidity, people sweat less, and cuddling together on the couch or by a fireplace becomes appealing," says Stockwell. "Fall weather often leads to more physical contact—more hugs, more cuddling, and an overall increase in contact through touch."
So what does this have to do with your health? Well, according to Stockwell, "Physical touch is important for overall wellbeing, as well as mental and emotional health, so make sure to take your time and enjoy keeping warm with those you love." And for more relationship tips, don't miss these 40 Ways to Be a Better Partner After 40.
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