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To do this, spend time outdoors and use a nonstrenuous exercise routine to ease your heart into the season. And, of course, eat a heart healthy diet, limit stress and find joys in the unique attributes of winter. JOINTS Management, notes that colder weather increases the amount of calories burned while exercising. This may make exercise feel more strenuous. "In addition," Alexander says, "in cold weather, blood vessels narrow, fluid and heat loss are accelerated, and tightened airways make breathing more difficult." Alexander advises creating a threemonth winter calendar of your weekly workout plans. "Tangible commitment is the first step to action," she says. "It's important to find healthy ways to reward yourself for staying on track and, even better, commit yourself to a spring event by registering for a 5K or a 10K. This will keep you on track and motivated all winter long." PHOTOS BY THINKSTOCK HEART "It may not come as a surprise that cold weather can be a challenge for our heart and vascular system," says Mary Ellen Bergh, MD, GMC cardiologist. "In cold weather, our bodies constrict the blood vessels in our skin in an effort to limit heat loss so that our internal organs maintain a constant temperature." These vascular adjustments are vital to survival, but they can put an extra load on the heart by increasing blood pressure. In winter, we also tend to drift into hibernation mode, skipping healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, exercising and managing stress. When we let these heart healthy habits slide, we're asking our heart to be like a strong engine without maintaining it regularly. This additional strain can manifest as chest pain or hypertension. This is particularly true when we enter the cold to pursue vigorous activity, such as clearing snow and ice from a walkway. Abrupt activity like this is associated with the development of angina, or heart pain. Dr. Bergh advises that to prevent such hardship on your heart, it's important to acclimatize yourself to winter weather. Many who have arthritis or other inflammatory conditions notice the change in temperature. "Colder weather can cause swelling in the joints," says Mary Albert, MD, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with GMC, "which then irritates the nerves and increases pain and discomfort. This can be compounded by a change in circulation, both from constricted blood vessels and some redirected blood flow." When it comes to soothing achy and stiff joints, Dr. Albert recommends using heat, like warm water and heating pads, or relieving tension with a massage. "Colder temperatures and shorter days put a damper on our exercise routines," Dr. Albert says, "and immobility just makes joint pain worse. Regular exercise and stretching will decrease muscle pain and stiffness." n APPOINTMENTS Year-Round Wellness During any season, healthy habits include eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, relieving stress and keeping routine medical appointments. A doctor can help you with all of these areas. To find the perfect physician for you, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/ physician. W INT E R 2 01 6 51 http://www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/physician

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

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