Taking care in winter

Winter can be challenging for most people, but as you start to age, you need to make sure you take these extra precautions to stay healthy and well during the colder months. Learn how staying hydrated, keeping warm and exercising can keep you well.

1. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is very common in older people, and if not treated, it can lead to hospitalisation or even death.

Dehydration is often caused by inadequate fluid intake but can also be caused by many other reasons, such as medication side effects, diarrhea, excessive sweating, loss of blood and health conditions such as diabetes. In fact, “aging itself makes people less aware of thirst and also gradually lowers the body’s ability to regulate its fluid balance”[1].

Some of the symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Thirst
  • Dryness of mouth; dry tongue with thick saliva
  • Unable to urinate or pass only small amounts of urine
  • Dark or deep yellow urine
  • Headaches

Drink at least five glasses of water a day by gradually increasing your water intake daily. If you are concerned about being dehydrated avoid alcohol, minimise your tea and coffee intake. If you have any concerns or questions, contact your GP.

2. Stay Warm

To stay healthy during winter it is important to stay warm.

As we all get older it is easier to lose your body heat faster and not be aware of it.

Some signs that your body temperature may be decreasing are:

  • Shivering
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue

Prevention is much better than cure when it comes to staying warm:

  • Dress warmly in and out of the house - layer up and wear thermal clothing
  • Ensure you have enough warm bedding including flannelette sheets and blankets

  • Use anti-draft snakes to lay across the bottom of your doors (or make with rolled up towels or old blankets) to keep the any drafts out

  • If you are using an electric blanket use it to warm up the bed and turn it off before you get into bed.

  • Do not sit too close to any heater for an extended period of time as it could cause burns.

  • Do not cover the heater with anything as it may cause a fire.

If you are struggling staying warm over winter discuss any concerns with your GP.

3. Exercise

Keeping your body moving all year round is one of the keys to staying healthy and aging well.

Everyday Health states “an active lifestyle is especially important for senior health because regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer, and it can also reduce pain associated with arthritis. By improving balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength, older adults can stay healthier longer.

Some exercises you can do include:

Walking

Rug up, grab a friend, a bottle of water and take a stroll around your block. If you are not able to walk outside, clear a path through your house and carefully walk a lap or two each day.

Yoga

Yoga is low impact; gentle stretching that can help you increase your flexibility. Select your class wisely. There are a variety of class that cater for older people or those with limited mobility.

Aqua Aerobics

Another low impact exercise is aqua or water aerobics. Make sure you select a class targeted at your fitness level, and take a bottle of water as you tend to sweat a lot in the heated pool.

In-home exercises

If you can’t leave your house and would like some easy, gentle exercises, ask your doctor for some suitable exercises that you can do in your home.

Please speak to your GP before beginning an exercise program.

Sources

  1. http://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/dehydration-a-hidden-risk-to-the-elderly/ 
  2. http://www.health.gov.il/english/topics/seniorhealth/healthpromo/pages/coldness.aspx
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/basics/symptoms/con-20020453
  4. http://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health-photos/exercise-ideas-for-seniors.aspx
  5. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/activities-for-the-elderly.aspx