By Donna Adinolfi (Mindful Adventures)
Do you ever wonder what happens to your body during the cold winter months? I wanted to know more so I connected with Fitness Expert and Creator of the AND/life app, Andrea Marcellus.
In cold weather, your blood vessels constrict, making it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout the body. This results in higher blood pressure and slower circulation. Slower circulation can cause muscle aches and cramps, coldness in the hands and feet, digestive issues, and distracting numbness.
Let’s begin with a review of Vasodilators and Ace-inhibitors. First, Vasodilators relax blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow. According to Andrea, you want to look for foods high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and Omega-3’s that stimulate the increase in nitric oxide production in the body to help relax the blood vessels.
It’s also important to know that Ace-inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme) lower blood pressure by reducing the activity of the enzyme that constricts blood vessels. What happens to our circulation in cold weather? Andrea Marcellus: When our bodies are faced with cold-weather, it goes into protective mode with two actions: shunting and shivering.
Shunting is the contraction of blood vessels in your extremities to keep more blood in the torso to protect your vital organs, and away from the skin where the body loses heat.
When shunting occurs, your blood pressure increases and also your heart rate, as your body works harder to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Additionally, your immune system can be temporarily suppressed.
Why do we shiver? Andrea: Shivering is rapid involuntary muscle contraction all over your body in an attempt to generate heat.
Is being cold dangerous? Andrea: Generally, reduced blood flow causes temporary discomfort, such as muscle aches and cramps, distracting numbness and coldness in the hands and feet, and digestive issues.
People with underlying health issues should be cautious of cold because of the increase in blood pressure. And being cold can reduce your immunity.
How can I use nutrition to improve my circulation? Andrea Marcellus: Foods can help circulation in two ways, either by:
1. Improving blood flow by relaxing the tiny muscles in blood vessels, or 2. Lowering blood pressure by inhibiting the enzyme that makes blood vessel contract (thus increasing blood pressure).
Would you review what kinds of foods I/we should be eating to improve blood flow and relax contracted blood vessels? Andrea: Yes. Foods high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and Omega-3’s stimulate the increase of nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels allowing for improved blood flow. These are the foods called vasodilators: Cayenne, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Garlic, Onions, Leafy Greens, Citrus Fruits & Berries – high antioxidant (polyphenols) and anti-inflammatory properties, Walnuts, and Salmon. Are there any other foods that can help? Andrea Marcellus: Yes, ginger and tomato help circulation in a different way by reducing the activity of the enzyme that constricts blood vessels, therefore lowering blood pressure .
These are called ACE-inhibitors. (angiotensin-converting enzyme). Does vigorous exercise help reduce the negative effects of cold? Andrea: Short bouts of it can be useful to get blood into fingers and toes that are going numb. But exercising in the cold pulls heat to the skin where it’s then lost easily – therefore triggering your body’s defensive response (to increase heart rate and blood pressure).
So it’s important to listen to your body and layer appropriately during cold weather exercise – especially this year when no one needs to be immuno-suppressed!
In closing, my final thoughts: I’ve often said that I thought I’d have a better chance of staying on track, especially in the winter, if I had a buddy or two to connect with for fitness.
According to Andrea Marcellus, the new patent-pending AND/friends™ technology lets you create a custom workout based on your mood and preferences and you can invite up to three friends to do it LIVE with you on your screen.
Andrea, you had me at mood!
I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but I’m looking forward to it.