Tag Archives: toes

Hot Cocoa and Winter Health Risks

Long View: Cold Hands, Hot Cocoa

I always remember December from my childhood, when the weather got subzero, and the wind was playfully whipping snowflakes around. School was out for the holidays, and my sister and I always loved to play outdoors, despite the frigid temperatures.

We would come downstairs with our garb, and Mom would get us all bundled up to brave the weather. Snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots were standard outerwear those days. My mom would secure the scarf so that it would stay put, and the hat would cover my ears and my forehead. When she was through, I could barely see and hardly move.

I remember stiffly walking out the door, hoping that with more movement, I would loosen up enough to enjoy some of the winter wonderland we called our yard. Hot cocoa would be waiting for us when we came in, and it was like magic what that cup of warmth could do!

Today, I run out of the house without a coat, hat, gloves, or scarf, thinking, I’m just going to the car, then running in to work. My days of bundling up are over. This is what happens when you go from 6 years old to 60. But honestly, what am I thinking?

Winter health risks should be a concern for our aging population. (Hey, that’s me too!) The most obvious risk is the weather itself. Midwestern winters can consist of ice and snow. Driving is a challenge. Walking is even more of a challenge. Slips on ice are a major risk, so it’s important to wear the right shoes or boots with good traction if you have to go out.  

Hypothermia is also a common winter weather health risk. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees, and once it gets to that point for a prolonged period of time, you can’t produce enough energy to stay warm.

Symptoms include shivering, cold pale skin, lack of coordination, slowed reactions and breathing, and mental confusion. It’s good to pay attention to how cold it is where you are, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Also, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up a healthy weight. Body fat helps you stay warm.

Frostbite is another health risk during the winter months. Frostbite means your skin has been over-exposed to cold temperatures, and it usually affects the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. It can be severe and cause permanent damage to the skin, and even progress to the bone.

Frostbite can affect anyone who is exposed to below freezing temperatures, in particular, those who aren’t wearing the right clothing. It’s important to wear layers, preferably 2 to 3 layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Covering up your nose and mouth will also protect your lungs from the cold air.

As for drinking a cup of hot cocoa, well, that is a winter weather health benefit! According to a study at Cornell University, hot cocoa has almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and 2 to 3 times more than green tea! This winter, enjoy the magic of the season by keeping yourself safe and warm.

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Exercise for Your Arthritis

Help for Arthritis Sufferers

50% adults will develop arthritic knees in their lifetime. That’s a huge number of arthritis sufferers. With that large number comes an equally large number of remedies and therapies in the marketplace.

No one therapy will be effective for everyone though, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a winning combination right away. It may take some time.

There are 2 main options arthritis sufferers can try.

Change Your Lifestyle for Arthritis

  • Too much weight can cause added pressure on knees. Losing only 10 pounds can remove 40 pounds of pressure on your knees.
  • Aerobic activity keeps these joints flexible, while strength training can strengthen the supporting muscles.
  • Supportive devices like canes, crutches, or walkers can help take weight off painful hips. Splints and braces can restrict movement, which helps limit your pain.
  • Adjust your positioning frequently. Try not to stay in one position for an extended period. Periodically tilt your neck from side to side, change the position of your hands, and bend and stretch your legs.
  • Hot and cold treatments can relax muscles and reduce pain and swelling.

Manage Arthritis Pain with Medication

  • Over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol can be used when other methods don’t provide enough relief.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Ibuprofen, Motrin, or Aleve are the next step in pain relief. These medications offer a pain reliever with an anti-inflammatory built in.
  • Topical treatments like creams and gels may help joint pain close to the surface of the skin, like fingers and toes.
  • Injections of steroids or cortisone by a doctor are an effective way to relieve moderate to severe swelling in the knees and hips.
  • Opioid painkillers are strong, but can be addictive.