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Winter Chills Bring Risks To Elderly

The winter brings many seasonal pleasures, but seniors have to be extra careful not to suffer the bad effects of cold weather. Hypothermia, dehydration and falls on the ice are all dangers of winter weather to everyone, but the elderly are particularly susceptible, say safety officials.

Senior citizens who are ill, who have poor circulation, or who take medications that can interfere with the body's ability to regulate its temperature are at high risk for hypothermia, which is when the body temperature drops below 96 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Their advice: Make sure houses are insulated and properly heated. Dress warmly in layered clothing so you are warm, but you can take off clothes if you start to perspire. Getting enough water shouldn't be a concern only in the hot months. Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day, especially in the dry, cold winter weather. As people age, the mechanism that triggers thirst becomes less sensitive at the same time that a lower percentage of our body weight is made up of water, and dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for seniors, according to University of Missouri scientists.

Lastly, steer clear of icy or unshoveled sidewalks in bad weather. Seniors often have trouble with their balance, and falls are always a danger. If you have to go out, tread carefully and try using a walking stick.

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