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BRAIN More than half of the roughly 36 million Americans who experience migraines have noticed meteorological changes as major triggers. "Notable weather conditions that can trigger a migraine are high humidity levels, strong winds and drops in barometric pressure, which occurs before rain or snow," says Arun Lakhanpal, MD, a Gwinnett Medical Center neurologist. "Any sudden change in weather can induce a migraine." Often, migraines have multiple triggers, and for many people, Dr. Lakhanpal says, it doesn't take much. Common nonweather triggers include lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, drinking alcohol, not exercising, and eating too many carbs or foods with lots of preservatives. Triggers vary from person to person; even more, the symptoms and causes of migraines can vary between episodes. Keep a migraine journal with the migraine's date and time, where you feel the pain, the changes in weather, what the pain feels like and additional factors leading up to it (e.g., stressful event, exercise, eating certain foods). And learn the warning signs before the onset of a migraine. Dr. Lakhanpal advises watching for signs such as talkativeness or restlessness, increased appetite, drowsiness or depression, irritability and tension. If you notice these signs, start treatment immediately. HORMONES When cooler weather comes, hormonal levels are affected in multiple ways, for both men and women. "Melatonin levels may decrease," says Kathryn Parris, MD, medical director of women's health services. "This in turn impacts our ability to sleep and can exacerbate other conditions." Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may worsen for many women during the winter months, Dr. Parris adds, sometimes because of increased levels of stress. Other conditions like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) have similar symptoms to PMS; both conditions can cause feelings of depression, irritability, anger and cravings for sweet and salty snacks. "Testosterone in men can also drop in winter, leading to low energy, increased moodiness and trouble sleeping," says Kevin Johnson, MD, FAAFP, director of GMC's Family Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Parris says it's important to recognize that hormonal shifts during winter are normal. How do you manage? As much as possible, continue your normal routines, including eating healthfully, exercising and sleeping on your regular schedule. MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH We've all experienced the dreaded weight gain during the winter months, but there are physiological reasons behind it. Not only are delicious, fatty foods a part of family and holiday tradition, but in cold weather our bodies actually crave foods with higher amounts of fat and carbohydrates, too. "We search for foods to comfort ourselves, and our winter clothes tend to hide the added pounds," says Devin Vicknair, PhD, behavioral health coordinator at the Center for Weight Management at GMC. "Whether it's because of SAD, primal instincts, tradition or accessibility, it becomes easy to reach for sweet treats instead of fresh produce." Your best strategy is to aim for nutritionally balanced portions and be mindful about behavior patterns. Eating is only part of the equation. April Alexander, clinical exercise physiologist at the Center for Weight 50 W IN T ER 2 0 1 6

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - Gwinnett Medical Center

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