Exposure to freezing temperatures while doing winter sports is inevitable. Follow these tips to avoid health risks during outdoor exercise or snow sports

For many athletes and weekend exercise enthusiasts, winter is a time to enhance cardiovascular health. Many join in on winter sports, such as sledding, skiing, snowboarding, rough-and-tumble ice hockey, or casual ice skating. But illnesses also start to knock our doors during the winter months. To spend a comfortable winter and avoid the some possible risks of disease and accidents while doing winter sports, it is essential to take some precautions.

It is often overlooked that the knee-shattering cold weather has some positive effects on human health too. The cold air also helps you to lose weight by activating the fat particles called “brown fat.” Brown fat particles can be described as the opposite of white fat particles, which are known to be unhealthy. The brown fat particles in the beneficial group accelerate the burning of the fat by almost igniting the body.

Despite these positive effects, the winter months have some negatives that we should not ignore. Statistics show that there are significant increases in mortality rates during these months. Cold air increases blood pressure and increases risks for those with cardiovascular diseases. Scientists investigating the cause of deaths that peak in the winter months have found that sudden cardiac arrests, strokes, and other cardiovascular disorders lead the way in the cause of deaths.

My personal observation as a cardiac surgeon is that cardiovascular diseases have increased in winter months. There is no doubt that another disease that commonly occurs in the winter months is the flu. Flu viruses wait for cool and dry air to spread. The more you get away from the sun, the more you are at risk of catching the disease. In one of my earlier writings, I wrote about the benefits of Vitamin D in terms of our health and I especially mentioned the strengthening effects on the immune system. The most important source of Vitamin D is undoubtedly the sun.

Of course, in the winter months when we cannot benefit from the sun as much, but it is still possible to meet our Vitamin D need without pills. Vitamin D plays a major role in the strengthening of the immune system, while being extremely important regarding heart and skin health. Minor changes in your lifestyle will help increase your level of Vitamin D. Other ways to naturally raise the level of vitamin D include lowering your cholesterol level, doing regular sports, and eating fish.

With winter already in full effect, many of us are skiing, sledding, shoveling snow and getting cold feet is as big a problem as getting wet feet. Other discomforts while doing extreme winter sports are frostbite and hypothermia. Hypothermia is the decline in body temperature of people exposed to cold weather for a long time. The normal body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius, and hypothermia occurs when this value falls below 35 degrees.

In such cases, the human body automatically tries not to lose any more heat. The body starts to shiver and keep the heat of internal organs but if the ambient conditions continue, the body becomes unable to produce more heat, and hypothermia reaches a level that can result in death. Loss of control and a difficulty in perceiving surroundings are considered as a sign of hypothermia.

In case of such a situation, it is necessary to try to warm the body as soon as possible. First of all, if the clothes are wet, you have to get rid of them and if possible, wrap the effected person in thick blankets. In such situations, entering a hot shower or drinking alcohol are definitely two things that should not be done at first. These will cause you to go into shock. The elderly and infants are much more susceptible to hypothermia and are included as a group particularly at risk.

Local freezing injuries (frostbite) occur when the temperature of a certain area of the body falls below the freezing point. The beginning of the formation of ice crystals in the frozen area causes the cells to die. The skin begins to go red in those areas start to freeze, and the skin turns almost black if conditions continue. The skin that initially begins to get red quickly starts feeling numb. If the skin starts to turn black, it may cause permanent damage to the area, and perhaps even a worse result: the amputation of the frozen area. Local freezing injuries are mostly seen in the nose, ears, jaw, face and toes.

Many of you must have heard of frostbite, which occurs before local freezing (frostbite) and is known as the first phase of frostbite. When the freezing area reaches the frostnip stage, the nerves begin to withdraw blood circulation from the area; the surface seems extremely cold and lifeless, and white spots start to appear.

At this stage, which occurs just before permanent damage, the skin has not yet blacked out. You just should try to warm up your body right away. Local freezing is more likely to occur in people with low blood pressure.

While doing winter sports it is essential to wear proper footwear that is in good condition and keeps the feet warm and dry. Footwear should provide ample ankle support, as well. Also make sure to use appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.