On average, at least 25,000 older people die prematurely from cold related illnesses each year – that’s over 200 preventable deaths a day.
Research shows that exposure to the cold can have a devastating impact on the health of older people who are particularly vulnerable to the impact of low temperatures. As people get older it takes longer to warm up which can be bad for their health. The cold raises blood pressure, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke and breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections and winter related conditions such as flu and pneumonia.
Britain one of the worst
Over the last ten years a shocking quarter of a million older people have needlessly died from cold related illness. Britain has one of the worst winter death rates in Europe, even compared to other much colder countries. Poor quality, cold homes which exacerbate illness are part of the problem, as well as the absence of schemes to support older people insulating their homes.
People need to take greater precautions against the cold weather, such as wearing appropriate clothing, ensuring they have a flu jab and making sure their medication is up to date.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Each year these awful statistics are a massive wakeup call.
“We urge people to keep an eye on older relatives, friends and neighbours, especially when the weather is very bad and it’s difficult to get out. Offering to do some shopping, or just popping in for a chat and a cup of tea can be a real help.”
- Stay active and when you are indoors try not to sit still for more than an hour, if you can get up. Walk around or make a hot drink.
- Eat well. It’s important to eat well, especially in the winter. Have at least one hot meal a day and have regular hot drinks, as they help to keep you warm. Stock up on basic food items in case of a cold snap.
- 64F (18C) is the ideal temperature for your bedroom and 70F (21C) is the ideal temperature for your living room, although if you still feel cold turn the heating up regardless of what the thermometer reads. Check your thermostat or use the pull-out room thermometer that comes free with the guide (see below) to monitor temperature.
- Keep your bedroom window shut at night. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.
If you are worried about staying warm this winter call the Advice Line free of charge on 0800 169 6565. The Charity has a free information guide which offers practical advice on staying warm and includes a handy free room thermometer.
The guide is available through its Advice Line, www.ageuk.org.uk, or local Age UKs.