As of 2018, there were 52 million Americans ages 65 and older, and that number is expected to nearly double by 2060. There’s a good chance you or a loved one falls into this category. Either way, it’s important to learn how winter impacts seniors’ health and when to seek medical attention from Dr. Sameer Ohri and our caring staff in Corona, California.
Certain medical conditions like arthritis or Parkinson’s disease may make it harder for older people to move around. This makes them more vulnerable to the cold weather. The same is true for those with diabetes because they may have poor blood circulation and not realize how cold they really are.
It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because they may not have sound judgment and can put themselves in extra danger without realizing it. For example, they may not dress warm enough for the cold weather and increase their risk of hypothermia or frostbite.
Seniors are also at risk for more heart attacks in the winter because cold weather stresses the body and can cause high blood pressure.
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature falls to a dangerously low level. If you’re out in the cold for too long or keep your home too cold, you could be at risk for developing this life-threatening condition. If you come across someone who has been in the cold, look for signs of weakness, sleepiness, or slow reaction times. These can all be signs of danger.
Seniors with heart or circulation problems are at a higher risk of getting frostbite on skin that’s been exposed to the elements for too long. Common areas of concern are the ears, nose, toes, fingers, and chin. The skin may appear grayish and feel hard or waxy.
Influenza, or the flu virus, can be deadly. We encourage most seniors to get a flu shot each year, especially if they suffer from chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or breathing problems. Getting the flu shot in the fall can help protect you most of the winter.
Accidents and falls
Seniors may have balance issues from loss of muscle mass, arthritis, strokes, medication side effects, or any other health condition. They may begin to fall more frequently, especially in the winter when surfaces are icy or slippery.
A minor fall could result in a broken arm, leg, or hip, simply because their bones are more brittle and they may not have as much body fat to pad their fall. This is why winter weather can be treacherous for seniors. Try to prevent this from happening by keeping walkways clear, using a cane or walker when necessary, and de-icing the front steps.
Seniors may feel more depressed in the winter, especially if they live alone. It may be hard to get out for groceries or visit friends. Be sure to check on older friends and loved ones frequently to see if they need anything. Sometimes, the sound of your voice or a hug is all they need to feel better.
When to seek medical help
If someone is bleeding profusely, having a heart attack or stroke, is unresponsive, or is having difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately. If there isn’t a life-threatening emergency, but you or your loved one doesn’t feel well, make an appointment to see Dr. Ohri today. We offer a wide variety of health care services for seniors. Just call 951-595-4588 or use our convenient online booking tool.