In our last blog post, we discussed how cold weather affects our seniors. Taking a closer look, this week we’ll dive into hypothermia and why the elderly are so much more susceptible to being a victim of hypothermia.
As most of us already know, typically normal body temperature 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia occurs when the body is losing heat faster than it is producing it. Usually once the body hits 95 degrees and body temperature continues to decrease hypothermia begins to occur. When hypothermia occurs, our organs cannot work properly because we are too cold – basically everything begins to slow down until our organs completely stop working. Our seniors are at most at risk for multiple different reasons:
- When we get older our metabolism slows down, which means we are breaking down food at a slower rate for energy. Ultimately, we have less energy than we once did – making it harder for our bodies to create heat and keep ourselves warm, especially if the temperature is below 65 degrees.
- Certain medications which can change the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.
- As we age, our internal thermostat may not function the way it once did. This means our bodies won’t be able to detect how cold it is; therefore, not triggering shivering or blood vessel constriction which keeps us warm.
- We also tend to eat less as we age, meaning less body fat which also insulates us and keeps us warm.
Hypothermia can be sneaky, because it often happens inside a home that isn’t warm enough. As stated above, anything below 65 degrees is typically too cold for the thermostat to be set at. According to Diane Atwood from Catching Health, “Approximately 600 elderly people die in the USA each year from hypothermia. Unfortunately, these are people who may be on a fixed income and will cut back on heating during winter months if they feel they cannot afford heating bills.” There are many different ways to keep warm during these winter months:
- Layer-up – sweaters, socks, and blankets can be very helpful in a cooler home.
- Check medications and see if any of them being taken can be harmful in the body’s ability to produce body heat
- Drink warm beverages to stay warm such as tea or hot chocolate.
Check up on mom, dad, and our elderly loved ones these winter months to ensure they are staying warm enough!
Atwood, Diane. “What You Need to Know About Hypothermia and the Elderly.” Catching Health, 10 Oct. 2016, catchinghealth.bangordailynews.com/2013/01/30/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-hypothermia-and-the-elderly/.
“Hypothermia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 May 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352682.