Women’s Health in the Winter

Does the winter season affect a women’s health?

Now that daylight savings time in full effect and the winter nearing, many women particularly those in northern areas experience changes in their well-being. Studies show that women may suffer more from seasonal alterations in health and behavior than men. These seasonal changes involve a wide range of issues from mood changes,  to changes in biomarkers and behaviors linked to cardiovascular risk. But without a better understanding of the effects of season and light exposure on health, it will be difficult to limit risk and find treatments for both women and men.

Perhaps the best-known seasonal change in health is seasonal affective disorder or SAD, sometimes also called Winter Depression. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , SAD is a  depressive disorder that is characterized by a  pattern of depressive symptoms that appear during this season every year — typically winter — with a return to normal mood when the season changes.

Most SAD patients report suffering from depressed or sad moods, decreased energy, increased sleep, decreased physical activity, and decreased interest in social interaction and their usual activities. SAD patients also may experience a craving for certain foods, such as carbohydrates, along with weight gain and mood fluctuations throughout the day.

Adult women are about  more likely to suffer from SAD symptoms than men. Interestingly, the difference in SAD between women and men is strongest during the reproductive years.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women  and there is a peak in deaths from heart disease in the winter among both sexes . In women, this is associated with seasonal differences in body chemicals that may increase risk, or serve as markers of increased risk, for heart disease.  Risks increase during the winter season due to decreased activity for both women and men.

Women are also more likely  to show  decreases in Vitamin D during the winter months . Vitamin D affects many body systems and Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and other conditions associated with heart disease, like diabetes and high blood pressure.   Vitamin D can be replenished by exposure to sunlight.  Although there is a chill in the air, get out there and enjoy the sun….. It’s good for your health and well being !!!