Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is behind us, it is hard to ignore that winter is here. For older adults and the elderly, the cold winds that blow across Missouri and Illinois can create unique risks. If you are a caregiver, here are 5 potential health problems to watch for in an aging loved one this winter:
1. Seasonal Affective Disorder
The post-holiday slump many of us experience may actually be something more serious. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a very real condition experienced by people of all ages. Older adults who may not be outside much in the winter are especially susceptible. Symptoms include sadness, moodiness, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
2. Vitamin D Deficiency
In colder climates like ours, vitamin D deficiencies are not uncommon during winter months. Because sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most of us, shorter, colder days often means we don’t get enough of what our body needs. In more recent years, a vitamin D deficiency has been proven to impact more than just the health of our bones. It is now linked to a wide variety of health conditions ranging from severe muscle pain to headaches, cancers, vascular and heart diseases.
3. Higher Risk of Stroke or Heart Attack
Winter often means snow and ice here in Missouri and Illinois. Those both create more work for everyone. Keeping sidewalks and the driveway shoveled or wood hauled in and stacked for the fireplace are especially hard tasks for older adults. Snow and ice can also prevent our senior loved ones from taking their daily walk or riding their bike like they might do in the summer. All of these factors add up to more heart attacks and strokes occurring during winter months.
4. Blood Pressure Goes Up
According to the Stroke Association, as the mercury falls blood pressure soars. It is because our body responds to colder temperatures by constricting blood vessels. That helps us to retain body heat. But is also makes the heart work harder. Shivering in the cold has the same affect. It helps to warm us up but in doing so it creates more work for our heart. These all cause a rise in blood pressure.
If your senior loved one lives with a chronic respiratory condition, it might go without saying that winter can be a tough time of year. For older adults, even a simple cold can create higher risks. Keep an eye out for a cough that won’t go away or a cold they can’t seem to shake.