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Chicago's Worst Winters May Affect Heart Disease and Depression

Windy City Weather
Windy City Weather
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Winter 2013-2014 has been said to be one of Chicago's coldest and snowiest winters ever. This is important for those who have cabin fever and who are coping with heart health issues because there is a known link between heart disease and depression. During the winter, seasonal affective disorder or (SAD) affects many; the heart may be affected as well. SAD occurs when the cold and dreary fall and winter months cause many people to feel down. SAD causes lower serotonin levels.

According to Bristol University in England, serotonin affects: appetite, sleep, memory, learning, body temperature, mood, behavior, muscle contraction, depression, heart and blood vessel function, endocrine gland regulation, aging, bone metabolism and wound healing. These are all very much affected by frigid temperatures, and winter marks peak season for cardiovascular events including, but not limited to, myocardial infarction, angina and hypertension.

It is not merely the temperature that affects cardiovascular function; it is also the lack of sunshine because sunshine delivers Vitamin D which is important to heart health. To combat the affects of the cold, dreary, snowy weather, it is important to have sufficient serotonin levels as well as Vitamin D which affects serotonin levels.

Serotonin levels can be improved with exposure to bright light.(300 watts) or full spectrum light, by getting regular aerobic and yoga exercises, and a diet rich in tryptophan rich foods such as:1) Free Range Turkey 2) Flaxseed/ Flaxseed oil 3) Buckwheat 4) Wild Fish and Sea food 5) Whey protein 6) Bananas 7) High quality Eggs8) Sour Cherries 9) Free Range Beef and 10) Dark Chocolate.

Increasing Vitamin D rich foods can increase serotonin levels especially during the fall and winter seasons when Vitamin D is not readily available through sunshine. Vitamin D is found in high levels in cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, fortified cereal, tofu, soy milk, caviar and mushrooms. It's also found in fortified products, such as milk, orange juice, yogurt, eggs, and margarine.

It is equally important to stay hydrated in the cold weather which helps to fight depression as well. Typically, it is thought that the summer months require hydration and little is said of staying hydrated during the winter. During the cold months, water intake is often neglected. During the cold weather, stay hydrated with water that is not as chilled as during the warmer weather so that you do not have worry about getting too cold.

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