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Senior Health: 3 Tips for Surviving Winter

By , 9:29 pm on

Brrr! Baby, it’s cold outside!  Here are three ways to survive winter in Nebraska.

1. Don’t increase your risk of heart attack: We need to dress warmly with hats, gloves and coats, to help our hearts.  When we get cold, our bodies constrict blood-flow to help retain body heat. This increased blood pressure makes our heart work harder to pump blood.  The same constricting of blood vessels can cause tearing in the lining of artery walls, resulting blood clots and stroke.  Check with your doctor about snow shoveling and other outdoor winter exertions. (Neal Kleiman, M.D., cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston.)  (This is probably the most important tip for seniors and older adults.  If you’re taking care of an older adult, it is okay to go outside for short periods, as long as s/he is sufficiently well wrapped up. )

2. Don’t hibernate like a bear.  Bears and other hibernating animals reduce their activity levels to the bare minimum for survival.  The best way to address winter blahs and weight creep is to keep up with our exercise and diet routines.  Not only does exercise help us fight the Holiday Spread, it also pumps up our endorphins, making us feel good and fighting depression.  Comfort food is okay once in a while, but not at the expense of our health.  It’s also important to maintain our connections with friends and family.  Don’t let the darkness and bitter cold keep you socially isolated.  Going outside on a sunny day, even when it is very cold, and only for 10 minutes or so, can help lift your mood. People really are affected by winter’s reduction in sunlight, some to the extent of depression, which needs to be treated by a doctor.  If you believe you suffer from depression in the winter season, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

3. Keep lizard skin at bay.  Seniors are prone to skin problems because as we age, our skin thins, dries and becomes more fragile. Dry winter air inside heated houses increase the drying affect.  Rashes and itchy skin are more likely in the winter months, especially a number of varieties of eczema and dermatitis complaints.  Look for signs of rash on arms and legs, and patches of itchy, flaky skin in typically oily areas, such as the head and chest.  Ask a pharmacist for help and see a doctor if necessary.

•          Preventative measures:

o          drink lots of water

o          apply thicker and heavier moisturizers than usual

o          wear sunscreen on sunny days

o          cover exposed skin when you go outside

o          keep your showers short

o          use a cool mist humidifier (and keep it clean)


We can survive winter.  It never lasts forever, not matter how long it seems.   In fact, we’re already in seeing longer days and shorter nights.

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