New Delhi: The winter months can bring in a few challenges and health related-risks, especially for the older people who are vulnerable to injuries and illnesses in cold weather due to a weaker immune system. They are susceptible to hypothermia, which is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Besides Hypothermia, during winters the bone and joint pains increase. The cause for this could be a change in the barometric pressure which leads to expansion of the tissue, causing swelling and pain.
But, older people can follow simple lifestyle changes to ensure that they do not fall prey to the harsh winter conditions. Here’s a list of tips and best practices suggested by Dr Sushila Kataria, Director, Internal Medicine at Medanta – The Medicity, Gurgaon, that can help seniors stay safe during winters.
Winter safety tips for the elderly
- Exercise: Indulge in low-impact exercises that pump up blood and provide warmth to the heart. It gets difficult to move out of bed during this weather, but engage in routine exercises like walking and yoga. You could do it at noon when the winter sun is upon you. This aids coordination and balance. Exercise also involves mind games for mental stimulation such as Sudoku, Chess, Ludo to keep oneself occupied.
- Track your meals and medicines: Stock up on all essential medicines and consume small meals throughout the day to keep yourself healthy and fueled with energy. Eat food rich in vitamins such as green vegetables and citrus fruits which make the skin more resilient and less prone to dryness. Keep yourself hydrated with 8-10 glasses of water even if you do not feel thirsty
- Keep yourself insulated: Seniors who have cardiovascular conditions may experience increased side effects in the cold. Ensure your house, if not centrally heated, has heaters and hot-water bottles always. Wear your woollens especially mittens and caps. The skin tends to become thinner during winters, hence, it is imperative to wear lightweight layers. Humidifiers in the house is a great way to keep the air moisturised and consume clean air. This also helps keep cracking and redness of the skin at bay
- Don’t miss your vaccines: Winter brings with it a higher chance of catching a cold or flu, thereby making it important to get all the flu shots on time. There are many vaccines available for adults. All elderly above the age of 65 years should routinely be vaccinated for flu and pneumonia. Flu vaccine should be given every year in November or December. Pneumonia vaccine is given once after the age of 65 years. People younger than 65 years of age with comorbid medical conditions should also be vaccinated like people with lung problems, kidney problems, liver problems, smokers, diabetics or patients with weakened immunity like HIV. Do ask about the vaccine when you visit your doctor.
- Skincare: Often we ignore the importance of sunscreens. Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to skin irritation and skin discolouration. Hence, wear a sufficient amount of sunblock before stepping out.
While the above-mentioned precautions are crucial to take care of yourself during winters, there are few Ayurvedic remedies that can aid as well.
- Choose a diet of steamed and boiled vegetables, vegetable soups, and stews and keep oily and spicy food at bay. Try baking or roasting and consume white protein like fish, eggs and chicken.
- Keep a jar of roasted flax seeds and cumin seeds. Regardless of whether you have a cold or not, eat a spoonful of these seeds every morning. Their antiseptic properties go a long way in curing fever and throat infections.
- Treat yourself to oil massages at least once a week to relax the body muscles.
The key to well-being is being happy. Winter blues make it quite easy to develop depression and a feeling of loneliness during this time of the year. Be in touch with your family and keep yourself occupied. It is natural to feel lazy and lonely. However, one should consider stepping out and make time to get together with friends. Involve yourself with a game of cards or a brunch outing in the winter sun and pursue long-lost hobbies when indoors like knitting, playing an instrument or cooking.