It’s the season when the cold winter weather can impact health. As seniors age, their body’s ability to regulate internal temperature decreases. Plus the body has less fat and muscle and cannot generate heat as efficiently as in the earlier years. Here are five winter health tips to protect yourself and educate your loved ones:
Elevated blood pressure. Our bodies respond to cold temperatures by constricting blood vessels. While this helps the body to retain heat, it also stimulates the heart muscle to pump harder to maintain normal blood flow against the added resistance (i.e. increased blood pressure). The act of shivering also increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Solution: Wear layers of clothing, gloves and a hat, especially if you know that you’re going to be outside.
Increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The number of heart attacks increases by more than 50% as the season transitions from summer to winter. This can cause tears in the plaque lining artery walls resulting in the formation of blood clots, which leads to heart attack or stroke. Consult with your physician first to avoid overexertion and amplified stress on the heart.
Respiratory issues. Like arteries, the airways respond to cold, dry air by constricting. Narrowed airways restrict airflow making breathing more labored and exacerbating asthma, emphysema and other lung problems. If you have one of these conditions, monitor them closely to avoid strenuous activities, especially outdoors.
Vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is the primary, natural source from which people obtain vitamin D. During the winter, days are shorter and less sunlight means less vitamin D synthesis. Low levels of this essential vitamin have been correlated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia, heart disease, osteoporosis and other serious conditions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder. Less sunlight also means increased risk of seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression experienced in the fall and winter. Symptoms are similar to those of clinical depression-social withdrawal, loss of energy, anxiety, etc.
If you notice the onset of these symptoms coincides with the winter months, talk to your doctor to determine a plan of action for treatment.
CalaCare wishes everyone a Happy Holiday! Be safe.
For a free in home care assessment, please call CalaCare at 1-888-774-CALA (2252).