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Do's and Do Not's For Winter

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Want to beat the winter chill? DON'T wear a woolly hat, but DO drink decaf and point your toes in bed - experts reveal their surprising winter warmers




With the cold snap expected to last another week and energy prices soaring, it's harder than ever to keep warm. Here, medical experts give their quirky tips



When we go from a warm house to the cold outdoors this can trigger changes in our tiny blood vessels and this, in turn, can trigger Raynaud's disease, says John Scurr, consultant vascular surgeon at University College Hospital in London.

This condition causes the small blood vessels to temporarily spasm when exposed to cold conditions, causing the extremities to 'drain' of blood, feeling cold and painful.

'To avoid feeling this dramatic change, don't overheat the house, but keep it at 18c to 20c,' says Mr Scurr.


Though having a takeaway hot tea or coffee on the way to work may make you feel warmer, the caffeine in the drink will make you lose body heat.

'Caffeine blocks receptors in the blood vessels and prevents them from constricting in the cold,' says Eddie Chaloner, consultant vascular surgeon at Lewisham General Hospital.

'Because they remain dilated, it means you lose heat faster. So if you are outside having a hot caffeinated drink you'll feel the cold more quickly, though it's not such a problem if you're inside.'

Opt for decaffeinated or herbal drinks instead. 'I drink ginger tea,' says physiotherapist Sammy Margo. 'It has natural warming properties.'




Resist the urge: Don't walk with your hands in your pockets - swing them about instead

When we're cold, our instinct is to walk with our hands in our pockets and to hunch forward. However, it's better to walk with our hands free and swinging by our side, says Tim Hutchful, of the British Chiropractic Association.

'By swinging the arms, muscles will be given a workout, improving blood flow to the area which will generate body heat.'


Digesting protein causes body temperature to rise more significantly than carbohydrates or fats, says dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker.

'The body has to work hard to absorb protein compared with carbs and fats, so we use more energy and create heat, which helps to keep us warm.

'For breakfast, make porridge with soya milk, as this is higher in protein than regular milk. You can up the protein intake further by topping it with nuts and adding a swirl of natural yoghurt.'


We lose 30 per cent of body heat through our head, says Dr Andrew Camilleri, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Trust.

When buying a hat, choose one that covers the ears, too. 'The ears are thin, but have large surface areas so they lose heat easily.'

He also suggests wearing a hat made from fleece rather than wool. 'Fleece is good, as it's an insulating fabric and so it traps any still air between the hat and the head.

'That layer of air then acts as another layer of insulation, helping to keep the head warm.'

And make sure you breathe in through your nose and not your mouth. The nostrils and sinuses filter and warm the air going into the lungs so when we breathe out it feels warm, says Dr Camilleri.

'When we breathe through the mouth, there is no mechanism to heat the air and the warming effect is lost. So if you want to feel warmer, you should breathe through your nose.'


Doing a few simple exercises under the covers will help you feel warmer when you get out of bed, says physiotherapist Sammy Margo.

Start by pointing your toes up and down 20 times before circling the ankles ten times in each direction. Then clench and release thighs ten times, before doing the same with the buttocks ten times. 'This will warm you up and get your circulation going before you get out of bed,' she says.


If you suffer from eczema or dermatitis, apply more moisturiser when the weather is cold, says dermatologist Dr Anshoo Sahota, consultant dermatologist at Barts Health NHS Trust.

'Inflamed skin loses more heat because inflammation drives blood flow to the surface of the skin. But you can block this response by making sure you use plenty of moisturiser as well as other anti-inflammatory treatments such as steroid creams.'


Feet are harder to keep warm, because in cold weather the body reduces blood flow to the extremities so more can be sent to vital organs.

'Our feet act like a thermos flask - if they start off cold, they stay cold, but if they start off warm there is a greater chance of them staying warm,' says Mike O'Neill, a consultant podiatrist at Barts Health NHS Trust. He recommends warming shoes on or near a radiator for a few minutes (don't leave unattended) - and do the same with a second pair in the office. 'When you get to work, you can change into warm shoes, maintaining body heat.'


Wearing a gilet or body warmer such as a haramaki, a Japanese bandage style stomach wrap, can help beat the cold.

'Wearing a gilet may help maintain body temperature,' says vascular surgeon Eddie Chaloner.

'When the limbs are exposed to colder temperatures than the torso, blood vessels in the arms and legs constrict. Blood then bypasses the limbs and floods to the torso.

'Being wrapped around the stomach will help the body to maintain its core temperature so that it doesn't lose heat.'

Inspired by wraps worn under the armour of Samurai warriors, the haramaki (£22.99, www.kokoro-japan.co.uk) is believed to work on the Japanese philosophy of 'warm core equals warm body'.


Therapeutic: Sitting in a rocking chair helps you generate energy while seated

Sitting in a rocking chair isn't just therapeutic for the mind - it helps you generate energy while sitting down.

When we are motionless, our body temperature drops and muscles start to shiver - involuntarily contracting and relaxing to try to keep the body warm, says Tim Hutchful.

Shivering can start when the body temperature drops  below 37c.

Using a rocking chair requires moving the large muscle groups in the arms and legs, keeping blood flowing and so helping to generate body heat.


Rather than hibernating at home, going out with friends could make you feel warmer.

In a study by the University of Toronto, scientists found that social exclusion makes us feel far colder than if we were socializing and spending time with people.

During their experiments, participants who recalled an experience of feeling socially isolated gave lower estimates  of room temperature than  those who recalled a good  social experience.

'When we are with people we enjoy spending time with then we will be distracted and not notice the room temperature,' says Dr Jan Wise, a community consultant psychiatrist in London.

Socializing in your home will have similar benefits.

'Being with friends can feel cozy and those positive feelings will make people feel as if they are not as cold.'


Thinking about the past may help you keep warm, according to a study at the University of Southampton.

Researchers asked volunteers to think about a happy memory or an ordinary event from their past and then guess the temperature of the room.

Those who recalled a nostalgic event felt the room to be warmer.

The theory is that nostalgia recreates the feeling of previous physical comfort - you feel warmer or your tolerance of cold is increased.




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Every year just as winter is approaching I have a little "safety meeting" one time when I conduct the mid-week meeting for service. I discuss dressing warmly and layers, the benefits of a hat, watching one another for signs of frost-bite. I grew up right on Lake Superior and believe me it could get cold! We had to know how to dress.

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Well, here's a update on the above story on DO's and Do Not's for Winter:



Everything You Know About Getting Warm Is Wrong

The Huffington Post  |  By Sara Boboltz & Todd Van Luling Posted: 11/25/2013 8:48 am EST  |  Updated: 11/25/2013 9:14 am EST

Be warned, as this might make you want to spit out your coffee, but that hot drink you're sipping on could actually be making you colder.

And that's not the only thing making it hard to stay warm as the temperatures continue to drop around you. You're going to need all the advice you can get in order to stay toasty this winter. Although you might already know that a space heater is a great way to heat up a room, or that Canadian Goose is apparently the jacket of 2013, there are other important warming techniques you might be getting wrong, or perhaps new ones you simply had no idea existed.


1. Alcohol doesn't make you any warmer.


Drinking alcohol lowers your core body temperature, increases your risk for hypothermia and prevents your body from naturally shivering to keep warm. The reason why you feel warm while drinking alcohol is that your blood vessels dilate and send warm blood away from your core and towards your skin. This effect is only temporary and in the end significantly decreases your body's ability to fight the cold.

2. But you might warm up by eating gingerbread cookies.


The root herb ginger is a centuries-old medicinal supplement used to soothe colds, motion sickness and other stomach problems. And according to lore, it also "gets the blood flowing" and softens cold hearts, metaphorically, at least. One study conducted on rats showed that ginger, even as an ingredient in food, has the ability to raise body temperatures. There's a reason we tend to associate gingerbread with the cold of wintertime -- people traditionally believed the herb to stimulate the body and increase blood circulation. Now how much ginger are you going to put in that cookie?

On top of the possibility that ingesting ginger can raise your temperature, evidence suggests other foods can help you warm up too. Hot peppers cause sweating, and brown rice and other complex carbs make you warmer because they're harder to digest.

Don't bother with the gumdrop buttons, they won't warm you up.


3. Feeling cold is all in your mind.


Tibetan monks practicing a rare form of meditation known as g-tummo, said to control "inner energy," can raise their core temperature at will. Researchers at the National University of Singapore found that even Westerners taught to practice a basic form of g-tummo in the form of two breathing techniques could successfully warm themselves up. One technique required the participant to concentrate on envisioning flames at the base of the spine, and the other involved "vase breath," a breathing method that produces heat. A Dutch man used similar techniques to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 wearing only shorts and sandals. (Note: We do not recommend this). Believe in yourself. You are warm.

4. Loneliness can lower your body temperature.


It's no fun to be ignored, as anyone who's attended middle school can attest, but a pair of researchers at the University of Toronto say that lack of social contact can lead to physical consequences. In other words, giving someone the "cold shoulder" can actually make them feel colder.

In one study, participants were split into two groups, asked either to recall a situation in which they felt included or excluded. When later asked to estimate the room temperature, participants who had described social exclusion gave lower estimates. In another study, participants who were made to feel excluded in a virtual ball-tossing game expressed a stronger desire for warm food and drink afterward. So the next time your house seems drafty, call up a friend or family member.

5. Hot drinks might actually cool you off.


When having a hot drink, nerve receptors in your tongue (specifically the TRPV1 Receptor) signal to the rest of your body that something "hot" is coming and you need to start sweating. Neuroscientist Peter McNaughton of the University of Cambridge told NPR that, "The hot drink somehow has an effect on your systemic cooling mechanisms, which exceeds its actual effect in terms of heating your body." For the sweat to really cool you off, it needs to evaporate -- if it just dampens your clothes or drips off, it won't do you any favors.

On the opposite end, apparently consuming too much of a cold drink can actually warm you up as it causes your blood vessels to tighten.

6. You don't catch a cold because of cold weather.


Exposure to lower temperatures doesn't give you a cold by itself. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there is, "no experimental evidence that exposure to cold temperatures increases the chances that you will get a cold." Instead, the rise in sickness and colds in the winter months is typically linked to people spending more time indoors, which allows germs to transfer between people more easily. This said, there's a possibility many of us already have traces of the common cold dormant in our systems during the winter months, and therefore that exposure to cold temperatures weakens our immune systems enough for the viruses to take hold of our bodies. So you might as well still put on that jacket, but you probably don't have to fret about "catching cold" as much as your grandma led you to believe.

7. Your body heat isn't mostly escaping through your head.


This myth actually stems from research done on military arctic weather clothing that didn't cover the soldiers' heads, so naturally the most heat escaped from the uncovered area. In reality, you lose about 7 to 10 percent of your body heat from your head, which is about the same amount of surface area your head accounts for.

Just don't take your helmet off in space and you should be fine.


8. Men and women actually do feel cold at different temperatures.


A 1998 study found that while men's and women's core temperatures didn't vary by much, just 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, women's hands were much colder than men's, suggesting they experience body heat differently. Turns out that men tend to have more muscle mass than women, who typically have a higher fat ratio. Muscle is good at producing heat and fat is good for storing it, giving the advantage to men, who tend to have more muscle mass and lower body fat percentages.

9. If your ancestors during the Ice Age lived in the north, you do have an advantage against the cold.


Having ancestors who lived in northern climates predisposes many people to better handle the cold. California geneticists led by Dr. Douglas C. Wallace of the University of California, Irvine, found that these genetic mutations are still found in many Northern Europeans, East Asians and Native Americans who stem from Siberian origins, but is absent in people whose ancestry remained longer in Africa. The research concluded that this distinction might also be the cause for a, "greater burden of certain diseases in the African-American population."

10. Wearing white might actually be the warmest color.


Black clothing absorbs heat from the sun and white clothing reflects it, but the common wisdom that white should be worn in summer and darker clothes in winter might need to be rethought. White's function as a reflector also appears to apply to body heat, meaning that wearing it may trap your natural heat close to your body in looser fitting clothes, like a jacket. Dark clothing, meanwhile, may be less likely to trap your body heat in, especially when it is loose fitting and there is wind to help convect it away. This theory is based on studies of bird plumage by Blair O. Wolf and Glenn E. Walsberg, published in Oxford Journals, but unfortunately nobody has actually proven that these findings work for clothes. A largely forgotten article in The New York Times from 1910 followed a study on this theory that ended up inconclusive -- but maybe you can be the one to finally test it out this winter.

Bonus: The cold weather can help you lose weight.


Tried all this and still shivering? Hey, at least you're losing weight! In cold temperatures the body works harder to warm itself up, not only burning more calories while working out but activating brown fat, which burns them more efficiently than white fat. Some people apparently believe that punishing themselves with icy-cold temperatures can help them lose more weight...

But you've still got to work for it.


Also on HuffPost:

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