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5 Hidden Winter Health Dangers

How to stay safe when the cold can play havoc with your heart, blood pressure and lungs

4. Winter blues

Shorter days with less sunlight bring a greater risk of seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter. Symptoms include loss of energy, anxiety, oversleeping, social withdrawal and weight gain. The disorder is usually treated by exposing the patient to increased doses of artificial light.

5. Lung problems

"Cold weather tends to bring out more respiratory problems, such as asthma and a greater risk of pneumonia," says Factora. Emphysema may also worsen in the winter, as cold and dry air narrows airways, restricting airflow into and out of the lungs to make breathing more difficult.

It doesn't help that winter makes it tougher to keep up our heart-healthy habits. "You really need to engage in regular exercise during cold weather, but many people don't," says Blumenthal. "Maybe you can't walk outside when it's too cold, but you should do home exercises — perhaps get a treadmill." Using an exercise video is another option.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

                                                                      Updated November 2012

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