By Riva Preil
â€œFrozenâ€ means more to us than the title of one of this yearâ€™s most popular movies- it also represents the way many of us have been feeling thermostatically due to the EXTREMELY cold weather! While the cold and snow are annoying, I feel responsible as a health care provider to address the HEALTH RISKS presented by the weather conditions.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), older adults are especially susceptible to weather related risks, such as hypothermia. This is due to the fact that their bodies are less equipped to respond to cold weather and their impaired self-regulation capabilities (either due to underlying medical conditions or medications that they are taking). The signs of hypothermia include slurred or slowed speech, drowsiness, confusion, shivering, stiff extremities, slowed reaction time, poor motor control, and/or weak pulse.
The tips recommended by the NIA for older adults are applicable to one and allâ€¦well, at least those of us not living in Los Angeles or Miami. The NIA advises adequate home heating- temperatures should be set to at least 68 degrees. Furthermore, multiple layers should be worn, including socks and slippers, even around the house. (My personal favorite find of the season is fleece lined leggings!) For those who must brave the outdoor weather, please remember to wear a hat, scarf, and gloves to prevent body heat from escaping though the head and hands. Furthermore, individuals with impaired balance should be especially careful on the ice and snow. Appropriate assistive devices (ex. straight cane) should be used at all times, even if you are just taking the garbage out to the corner! Fall prevention is one of the most important steps (pun intended) towards maintaining health in the older adult population. Hopefully, all of the aforementioned advice will be irrelevant soon, because we will be busy discussing summer sun safety instead. Until then, I hope this brief overview has been helpful. May we all be â€œchillingâ€ out on the beach very soon- the best type of frozen that exists!