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How extreme cold affects your health

10:12 PM, Jan 6, 2014   |    comments
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(WZZM -- The freezing temperatures and dangerous wind chill readings are doing more than just making it miserable to be outside. The conditions are also dangerous to your health.

Those most at risk are people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart conditions. That's because the cold weather causes our blood vessels to constrict to keep us warm.

Those conditions pose problems with circulation, so adding the stress of severely cold temperatures can cause blood pressure to rise, spikes in blood sugar, and heart attacks. The cold air can also trigger asthma attacks because breathing in air that's below freezing can cause spasms in the lungs.

That's why it's so important for you to stay in doors if you have any of these health conditions. Not to mention the fact that wind chills of 20 below can cause frost nip to exposed skin in just one minute. Longer than that can result in frostbite, which is much more serious.

Here are three things that increase your chances of getting frost nip: drinking alcohol, smoking, and drinking caffeine. All three of those cause the blood vessels in the skin to open and accelerate the loss of body heat.

And one more interesting cold weather health note: if you feel like you have to pee every time you go outside, it's not your imagination. It's actually your body's way of keeping you warm.
As blood vessels constrict, it's harder for blood to move through them, so your body eliminates the excess water from the blood so it can flow easier and keep you warm.

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