Top Five Winter Health Hazards

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-02_26b65dbfcf.jpgiStock/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Still digging out from the last storm? Bad news: There's more snow on the way, and all that fluffy white stuff can have heavy health consequences. Here's a look at the top five winter dangers and tips to protect yourself.
Heart Attacks and Strokes-Heart attack rates peak in winter, and a new study links lower temperatures with higher rates of hospitalization and death due to stroke.

It's unclear whether the cold is to blame -- all that shoveling might have something to do with it. Either way, keep warm and don't overdo it.

Exposure-Cold weather raises the risk of frostbite and hypothermia -- dangerous conditions tied to amputations and death. Avoid going outside in extremely cold temperatures if you can. Otherwise, bundle up in layers and stay dry. Seek medical care for signs of exposure like white, waxy skin and slurred speech.

Breaks and Sprains-Slippery sidewalks raise the risk of falls, and negotiating the heavy snow can wreak havoc on your chilly muscles. Take care when shoveling, and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or boots when out and about.

Viruses
-Winter is cold and it's flu season, but the cold temperatures have little to do with it. Rather, the weather forces people indoors where germs are easily spread. Protect yourself with a flu shot, and make sure to wash your hands often.

Depression-Winter got you down? You're not alone. An estimated 14 percent of Americans battle the winter blues, and almost half of those people (more women than men) have full-on seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be affected. Antidepressants, talk therapy and even exposure to light can help.

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