By now, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear us say that as you age, many things change. From loss of hearing ability to pain levels, from new illnesses to new dietary needs, the only constant seems to be change. Recent frigid temperatures are a stark reminder that individuals’ ability to regulate body temperature changes as well.
Why is it more difficult to stay warm and cozy as we age? There are several reasons.
- Increasing sensitivity to cold could be a sign of a medical problem, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or thyroid conditions.
- Some medications decrease circulation and increase heat loss, including beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.
- A normal decrease in circulation occurs as blood vessels lose their elasticity.
- Fat layers beneath the skin, which help conserve body heat, thin naturally with age.
- Metabolic responses to cold temperatures slow with age.
- In short, even in the absence of health problems, our bodies become less effective at controlling skin blood flow and generating internal heat.
Fortunately, cold weather isn’t quite as dangerous as hot weather, at least when it comes to weather-related deaths. That said, it is important to know the signs of hypothermia, especially if an aging person is prone to wandering or spending too much time outside. Inside, there are several things you can control in order to stay warm and cozy.
- Set thermostats to a temperature no lower than 68 degrees.
- Wear warm clothes when sleeping.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting clothing during waking hours.
- Drink warm beverages. Avoid alcohol, which increases heat loss, as well as excessive amounts of caffeine.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. Wear several layers if you must go outdoors, including a hat and gloves.
- Use appropriate caution when using space heaters.
- Never use a stove or oven to heat the home (you’d be surprised to learn how many from older generations have done this).
- Ensure that carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are working properly.
- Prevent burns by maintaining proper distance from heaters and never falling asleep with heating pads.
- Check on those who live alone to ensure they are following safe guidelines to stay warm and that their heat is working properly.
We wish you a warm and cozy winter!