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You know all the brutally cold weather that we’ve all been suffering through (and in many cases, still are)? According to HealthDay, a new study has revealed that low temps don’t just cause dry skin and cabin fever.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease  claim that cholesterol levels actually vary depending on the season…and tend to be at their highest when it’s cold outside. Specifically, the study found that levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol were “3.5 percent higher in men and 1.7 percent higher in women during colder months.”

The researchers behind the study say that this demonstrates the very real connection between a lack of exercise, comfort food and disease.

“It’s not just some weight that you’re gaining” when you eat more and exercise less during the winter, said lead investigator Dr. Parag Joshi, a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins. “There are markers in your blood that are changing, and those markers contribute to heart disease.”

What’s so bad about high cholesterol?

According to WebMD, when your body has too much cholesterol, it can cause thick plaque to build up in and eventually clog your arteries, which can reduce blood flow, and lead to a stroke or heart attack.

What are some of the most effective ways to improve your cholesterol level?

The top two ways to help lower your cholesterol are to exercise and eat the right foods. Foods like the ones found in the DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure. These foods include:

  • Whole grains
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts

You may also need to talk to your doctor about taking cholesterol-lowering medication.