We have always believed our health has been at least somewhat affected by the weather. Most common are arthritis sufferers who can almost predict the weather based on their joints. While it is hard to ignore what our bodies have been able to tell us in the past, is there any scientific evidence? Here are a few links between weather and health.
Some people could experience heart problems depending on the weather. Large studies both recently and many years past found that sudden drops in barometric pressure could bring on heart attacks in high risk people. Another study showed that a kind of heart arrhythmia could be linked to a drop in barometric pressure as well as increasing humidity. Further research has found that cold weather can cause an increased workload on the heart, increasing one’s risk of a heart attack. A 2017 report out of Canada found that snowfall also increased the risk of a heart attack. However, this is being attributed to the strenuousness of shoveling snow as it can heavily strain the heart. As far as cold weather is concerned, it is more of a concern in areas where the temperatures typically don’t drop very low. The few times they experience freezing temperatures can be a shock to the body, possibly increasing one’s chances of having a heart attack. Inhabitants of the northernmost countries have already adapted to these temperatures. Similarly, hot weather can be a threat to the heart. Hot weather causes the heart to work harder to keep the body cool. People without access to proper air conditioning and older people, especially those with underlying conditions, are at high risk for a heat-induced heart attack.
Aches and Joint Pain
A 2014 study surveyed sufferers of hip osteoarthritis every three months for two years, determining that increased humidity caused their pain to increase as well. Further, a study among construction workers found that those who worked in colder temperatures experienced more low back and neck pain than those who worked in warmer temperatures. A smartphone app in the U.K. collected local weather data while participants tracked their chronic pain levels. This proved there is a link between cloudy, rainy weather and increasing levels of pain. Alternatively, a study in Australia found that weather had a minimal effect, if any at all, on pain. According to a UC Berkeley article, some people believe that the lack of physical activity during bad weather is what worsen symptoms of different conditions. Therefore, it may be unnecessary to seek out a warmer, sunnier climate to eliminate joint pains and aches.
Migraine sufferers are quick to blame changes in the weather for their pain. Studies show that there may be some validity to this argument. Headache diaries of migraine patients over the course of a year stated that they experienced more headaches during the cold months. Another study showed that headaches were more likely to occur as the season change, mainly winter to spring and then spring to summer.
Cold and Flu
While viruses are the cause of both of these illnesses, many studies showed that physical stress from the cold can decrease resistance to viruses. Further, breathing in cold or heated, non-humidified air increased susceptibility by drying nasal passages and constricting blood vessels. A 2015 study supported this claim, when it found that drops in temperature and humidity occurred before the onset of a cold. It is important to keep in mind, however, that we catch a cold from sick people, not the weather. So, while it is not recommended that you go out in the cold while under-dressed, it likely won’t be the cause of your illness. Colds spread like wildfire in the winter because we are in close contact with people while trying to keep warm indoors. So the weather itself should have no direct affect on the cold and flu.
A study among university students found that they experienced greater mental distress during the seasons with less sunshine and warm weather. Similar studies proved that stress levels were reduced as amounts of sunshine increased. This is so common, in fact, that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is recognized as a type of clinical depression. SAD occurs during the autumn and winter months, when days are shorter and darker. Northern regions experience this on a grander scale than others. The symptoms are a more debilitating lethargy that most of us experience in the winter, and bouts of depression.
Links Between Weather and Health
In many ways, weather is certainly linked to our health and overall well-being. Hot weather can lead to heat stroke and even disease-carrying mosquitoes. Cold weather brings with it hypothermia as well as depression. Natural disasters cause cities to shut down and may lead to shortages. However, it’s possible that weather is not directly linked to aches and pains, but more recent studies hope to prove that it may play a small role.
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