by Susan Schachter, MSRDN November 07, 2021 3 min read
Every six months we adjust our clocks, and our bodies are forced to adapt to the change in time. Turns out, this simple change can have an impact on our health that's worth being aware of. In this installment of the Circulatory, we cover the good and bad news about DST and walk through some of the ways to ensure your body & lifestyle is best prepared for the seasonal adjustment.
The not so good news:
Darker earlier. So many of us are affected by the amount of sunlight/or lack thereof to which we’re exposed. That, along with the reality of the approach of winter (cooler temperatures), can impact our mood, our blood pressure, our immune function, and our lifestyle choices.
When we’re feeling low, we often comfort ourselves with food. We sometimes do that with foods that don’t actually nourish our bodies and often with amounts and ingredients that negatively impact our weight/blood pressure/health.
When it’s cold out, we often don’t exercise/move our bodies as much. This impacts our weight/blood pressure/health, our mental health and since we’re not getting sunshine, our bodies aren’t making vitamin D (which can negatively impact our immune function).
The good news:
“Falling back” is preferential for our circadian rhythm. Falling asleep when it’s dark and waking up when the sun comes up is a more natural rhythm for our bodies and so it causes less physical stress. As a matter of fact, one study found that the number of heart attacks is about 21 percent lower than usual in the week that follows the end of daylight saving time, than it is for all other weeks of the year!
Let’s keep pursuing the “good news”. We can take a deep breath and bask in the benefits that “falling back” gives us AND embrace our power to assert some control over the undesirable possibilities.
Environmental Control. As I’ve written about in a previous Circulatory, bring foods into your home that you know will support your health/healthy weight/healthy blood pressure. If you have some favorite foods that don’t fit into that category, bring only a small amount into your home and package it up into single servings and put it out of sight. Allow yourself ONE serving once (or twice) a week so that you don’t feel the need to binge on it out of a feeling of deprivation. It’s really okay to have one serving!
Exercise. Walking just 25 minutes a day …. It doesn’t even have to be 25 consecutive minutes, can positively impact your health/weight/blood pressure/mental health. Take a look at this Circulatory for ideas on how to more easily incorporate exercise into your life.
Vitamin D. It is important to incorporate Vitamin D into your life, particularly when you’re not able to expose large areas of your body to sunlight on a regular basis. I always recommend that you speak with your physician about incorporating a Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement into your regimen. It is important for our BP normalization AND It is important for our immune function.
Mood Management. Obviously eating nourishingly, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising can all be helpful with managing our mood. Additionally, spending some time outdoors in nature, connecting with other humans, connecting with animals, meditation and of course speaking with a mental health care professional are all deposits in the positive mood bank. Some people find that using a “happy light” in the months with less sunlight, can be helpful. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says about that. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604
Empowering yourself to incorporate as many of these lifestyle choices as you can will have a positive impact on your health in general, your mood, AND your blood pressure normalization, which taken all together, will piggy back on the “good news” about “falling back”!
Here’s to your health!
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