Winter poses unique health risks to seniors

Colder weather is right around the corner, and while that might come as good news to winter sports enthusiasts, the season does carry some unique challenges, especially for older adults. Winter poses a number of hazards to seniors that the younger population may not have to worry about. However, with some smart planning and recognition of these dangers, seniors and caregivers can enjoy a safe winter season.

Seniors are considerably more susceptible to hypothermia than their younger counterparts. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, aging lowers a person’s ability to withstand long bouts with cold. Not only that, but certain health conditions, such as diabetes, and specific medications can hinder this ability even further. Additionally, because seniors are typically less active they may not be able to generate as much body heat.

To protect against hypothermia, seniors should take common sense steps such as dressing warmly and keeping dry. However, there are some more areas to consider. Seniors should also make a point to stay hydrated and follow a healthy diet. It’s also important to look out for warning signs such as confusion, difficulty speaking and slow breathing, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Fall prevention
Although hypothermia is a significant concern, it’s not the only safety issue facing the senior population during the winter months. Inclement weather, snow and ice can greatly increase the risk of tripping and falling. These accidents can be a bit more difficult to prevent, but some proactive steps can reduce the risk. Proper footwear, such as non-skid boots, are essential, and it’s important for family caregivers to help prevent falls by ensuring walkways are clear and ice is salted.

Heart health
The impact cold weather can have on the heart is one of the often overlooked health issues associated with the winter. Lower temperatures can put extra strain on the heart, so it’s important for seniors heading outside to take it easier than during other times of the year. For instance, if they plan on shoveling snow they should be sure to take frequent brakes. Even better, family or friends may want to help out to reduce the risk of any complications.