Winter health woes: how to stay healthy this winter
The weather outside may indeed be frightful, but winter doesn’t have to mean catching a fever, or feeling run down. Here Andy Wilkins, CEO of Plutus Health, shares his top tips to prepare for the cold and wet winter season, and advises on how to stay healthy whatever the weather.
With cold and flu viruses flying around like wildfire at this time of year, it often feels impossible to avoid those dreaded runny nose, sore throat, cough and headache symptoms during the winter months.
But there are simple measures you can take to help your body stay protected against illness, leaving you feeling full of life and ready to take on sub-zero temperatures and the festive season with vigour.
A hearty breakfast
While eating breakfast is good for you all year round, during winter is really does become the most important meal of the day, kick starting your immune system in cold weather. Nutritious breakfast options like porridge and fruit will give you energy right from the word go, especially useful during the lethargy induced by shorter and darker days. We’d recommend adding blueberries or raspberries to your hot porridge, which gives a natural sweetness and eliminates the need to add spoonfuls of sugar.
Get plenty of calcium
Did you know that you are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter? With this in mind, it’s really important to make sure your immune system is in good condition. Topping up on dairy products such as milks, yoghurts and cheese is a quick and easy way to get protein and vitamin A in your body. But, to keep things healthy, go for semi-skimmed milk and low fat yoghurts.
Make sure you’re sleeping enough
With shorter days and darker evenings, it’s natural to want to adopt hibernation type habits in the long winter months. But don’t feel bad, it’s just your body telling you to get more sleep, and whilst it’s not quite as simple as bedding down from November through to March, it’s certainly recommended to get a solid seven-nine hours every night, so use this as your benchmark.
Keep your home warm enough
Experts recommend heating your home during winter to at least 18C, especially if you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a heart or lung condition. But remember, if you’re worried about heating costs rising, or feel comfortable enough with your room temperature lower, make the most of wearing extra layers and utilise a hot water bottle to keep you warm in bed.
Get the flu jab
While early October is generally regarded as the best time to get a flu jab, there is no harm in getting it at any point throughout the winter months if you think it is necessary for you, particularly as it’s free.
If you’re unsure check with your GP, practice nurse or local pharmacist, or check out the NHS guidelines. The flu jab is a particularly effective vaccine as it protects you against the latest flu virus strains. And even if you’ve already had a flu vaccine in previous years, you can get another one each year. It’s important to note that the flu vaccine may only protect you for a year because the viruses that cause flu are always evolving.
Don’t stop exercising
Regular exercise is an effective way to make you feel more energetic during those lethargic winter months. It will also help your body’s natural defences, strengthening the immune system, and effectively reducing the risk of colds and flu viruses. Exercise will also give your mental health a lift thanks to the release of endorphins, which will help those of us who may feel downbeat during winter.
But, if you do pick up a cold…
In the unfortunate event that you do pick up an illness, the key to recovery is resting, eating well, avoiding stressful situations and keeping hydrated with plenty of water. Take paracetamol as directed to treat fever and pain, and use decongestant sprays to clear a blocked nose. Taking all these simply treatments into account, and hopefully you should shake off your cold in no time at all.
Andy Wilkins in CEO of Plutus Health.