Hypothermia awareness is important for everyone, but it's especially critical for seniors.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), older adults are more vulnerable to hypothermia. This is due to the fact that cases of hypothyroidism, arthritis, Parkinson's disease and other conditions make it difficult for the body to remain at a healthy temperature of 98.6 degrees. Just a few degrees lower - 95 degrees - and you put your overall health and well-being at risk.
Winter can be tricky - some days the temperatures resemble springtime fresh air, and others are frigid and dreary. To ensure your safety all season long, consider these tips for avoiding hypothermia:
1. Be conscious of the warning signs
The most obvious sign is shivering. Shivering is your body's way of using energy to heat itself. When the shivering gets more severe, to the point of exhaustion, you may be developing hypothermia. Other warning signs include confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness and fumbling of the hands, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. If you're experiencing any - or all - of the symptoms, have someone call 911 if you cannot do so yourself.
2. Understand medication side effects
Did you know that certain medications can impact the temperature of your body? The NIA said that some prescription drugs used by older adults can heighten the chance of experiencing hypothermia. If you're taking anything to treat anxiety, depression or nausea, you may want to go over the side effects with your doctor.
3. Prepare for frigid temperatures outside
The easiest way to develop hypothermia is by heading outdoors before you're fully prepared. Reduce your risk by checking your local forecast before you go outside. This allows you to dress properly for the low temperatures and inclement weather. Wear multiple layers to cover up your body, and be sure to wear a hat or earmuffs, as the National Health Service of the UK said most of your body heat is let out through the head.
If possible, eat and drink warm foods and beverages while you're outside as well.
4. Drink alcohol in moderation when it's cold
Did you know that drinking alcohol makes the body lose heat? If you plan on consuming alcoholic beverages when it's cold, be sure to do so in moderation. If possible, avoid drinking alcohol while you're outside in crisp temperatures.
"It's critical to follow a healthy diet throughout the winter."
5. Eat well to maintain your weight
Because having body fat keeps the body warm, it's critical to follow a healthy diet that helps you maintain your weight throughout the winter. If you've recently lost weight or have trouble managing a healthy one, reach out to your doctor for advice. He or she can help you make adjustments to stay warm and healthy, and to avoid hypothermia.
6. Keep your home comfortable
Your risk may not seem as high when you're inside, but you can still develop hypothermia indoors if your living environment is too cold. Do your best to keep your home at a consistent temperature that leaves you feeling warm and comfortable all winter long. You may consider investing in a programmable thermostat that allows you to set it and not have to worry about it.
To ensure your heating system is working properly, have a family member or professional maintain and change the filters on a regular basis. This allows the air to flow properly and warm your living space the way it's supposed to.
Beyond your heating system, it doesn't hurt to dress warmly and use blankets indoors. Comfort is key for your overall well-being, and it'll reduce your risk for experiencing hypothermia.