Warm and well
Every winter up to 24,000 older people die due to the adverse effects of cold weather. Keeping yourself warm can help prevent colds, flu, and more serious illnesses like pneumonia. Being too cold has also been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or breathing problems.
Stay warm, stay well
Although it’s important to make sure your home is well heated, it’s not just about turning up the thermostat. Your main living areas should be 18-21°C, and Age UK recommends sealing up any gaps around windows and doors, closing curtains and fitting them with thermal linings to keep that heat in.
When the really cold weather arrives, instead of turning the heating up try setting it to come on earlier. That way the temperature never drops too low. If you’re worried about the cost of heating bills, there are Winter Fuel Payments available from the Government. If you receive certain benefits, you may be entitled to a Cold Weather Payment.
Up and about…
“Even if it’s just a stroll round the house or putting the kettle on, moving about at least every hour encourages the body to generate heat,” says GP Dr Rob Hicks. Wearing slippers will help keep your feet warm, but ensure that they fit well, have high sides and firm non-slip soles to prevent a trip or fall.
...plus out and about
If you’re able, wrap up with lots of thin layers rather than one thick one and head outside; even a short walk in your local area will help fire up your metabolism and warm you up. Wear thermal socks and sturdy non-slip shoes, and don’t go out if it’s icy. Make sure you keep moving – if you stand still or sit down for too long, your body will cool down very quickly.
Have a cuppa
You can’t beat a cup of tea, especially when it’s cold outside. Hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day encourage our bodies to produce energy, which in turn warms us up. “If you’re looking after an elderly person who struggles to get around, a hot drink in a flask will keep them warmer when you’re not around or if they wake up in the night feeling cold,” says Dr Rob.
If you’re aged over 65 and not had a flu jab this year, then see your GP. “Seasonal flu strains change every year, so last’s year vaccine won’t protect you,” says Dr Rob. Make sure you don’t miss out on the one off “pneumo” (or pneumococcal) jab, too – it helps protect against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.
For more advice, download the AGE UK’s leaflet “Winter Wrapped Up” and their Flu Prevention leaflet.
benenden health members can call the 24/7 GP advice line on 0800 414 8247