10 ways to warm up to winter

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am

With a cold winter monsoon blowing Hong Kong's way, this season has been a tad chillier than usual.

The elderly and people suffering from chronic illnesses should pay more attention to their health during this period and take extra precautions to stay warm, according to the Health Department.

Elders tend to have less fatty tissue directly under the skin, and therefore have a reduced ability to keep warm and regulate their body temperature.

Chronic illnesses, such as asthma, can also worsen in the cold weather.

A Belgian study by the European Society of Cardiology released in September found that cold weather produces more heart attacks. The study of nearly 16,000 patients of an average age of 63 years old, between 2006 and 2009, found that cases of acute myocardial infarction increased by 7 per cent for each 10 degree Celsius decrease in minimum temperature.

Researchers say this could be because during chilly weather cold receptors in the skin are stimulated, rousing the sympathetic nervous system. This leads to a rise in levels of catecholamines, which are hormones that increase heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, among other things.

Cold weather exposure also increases platelet aggregation and blood viscosity, raising the risk of thrombosis and clot formation.

Here are 10 ways to keep warm this winter:

  • Layer up rather than put on just one bulky jacket. Not only does it keep you warmer - the air trapped between layers provides thermal insulation - but it is also more versatile in variable weather.

    The layer next to the skin, called the base layer, should be soft, comfortable and able to absorb sweat quickly so you stay dry. The outermost layer, which could be as minimal as just a thin shell, should be windproof and water-resistant.

  • Cover your extremities. The head, fingers and toes lose heat easily and generate heat poorly. The quickest and simplest thing to do to keep warm is wear a hat. After all, the head can lose up to 20 per cent of the body's heat.
  • Exercise and keep moving. Not only does a moving body create heat, but exercise also improves blood circulation, which keeps you warm. There are many indoor workout options, such as dance classes or yoga.
  • Draw curtains or blinds and keep windows uncovered during the day to let warm sunlight into your home. Close the curtains at night to trap the heat.
  • Get a hot water bottle or flask - and fill it with a hot drink. Take it with you to keep your hands and insides warm, or stash it under your blanket for extra warmth in bed or on the couch.
  • Leave the bathroom door open while you shower to add humidity to your home.
  • Eat warm and easily digestible food and drinks such as hot milk, hot chocolate, oatmeal, soup and congee. In traditional Chinese medicine, winter is a time to load up on warming foods, such as cabbage, carrots, red beans, potatoes, cereals, walnuts and chestnuts. These foods are said to help maintain qi and nourish yang.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. The warming sensation immediately after downing a glass of wine or whisky is only temporary. Alcohol actually accelerates the loss of body heat because it dilates blood vessels.

  • Keep tabs on the weather. The Hong Kong Observatory has a good app for smartphones called MyObservatory. This provides regular updated forecasts and comprehensive weather information.
  • Hug someone. Sharing body heat through a hug with a friend or loved one will make you feel snug and cosy. You never know, it might also warm your heart during the cold winter months!