Winter Health Tips For Seniors
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like … Winter!
Yes, winter is here with all its festivities. The holidays are upon us. Friends and family are visiting. The landscape is touched by a softening blanket of snow. However, the winter season brings challenges as well as joys, especially for seniors.
If you are a senior or if you are caring for an older loved one, here are some winter-weather tips that can help ensure a healthier, safer season:
- Eat well — A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is essential to good health, especially during winter. The vitamin C and antioxidants found in winter fruits and vegetables can help stave off colds and the flu. Great winter fruits and vegetables include grapefruit, pomegranate, yams and winter squash like acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins. Whole grains like whole-wheat breads and that wintertime breakfast favorite, hot oatmeal, add healthy fiber to the diet as well as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Take your vitamins — While eating the right foods is essential to well-being as you age, it can be harder to get all the nutrition needed from your diet alone. Your digestive system is no longer as efficient, dental problems may make eating difficult at times, and changes in your sense of taste or smell can make food less appealing. Talk with your doctor about whether or not vitamin supplementation is right for you. A well-balanced multivitamin is a good choice. Vitamin D is also vital, especially in the winter. There simply isn’t enough sunshine during the day to allow your body to produce the vitamin D needed. Of special interest to seniors is the fact that vitamin D supplementation has been shown, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Vitamin D fact sheet, to reduce the risk of bone loss and fractures in people between ages 62 and 85.
- Stay warm — When aging, people become less active and their metabolism naturally slows. This can make it harder to stay warm. Feeling chilly all day is stressful. In extreme cases, it can lead to chilblains and hypothermia. Thus, if you can’t keep the thermostat set on high, bundle up this winter. Consider wearing an undershirt or camisole. Long underwear or tights can add another warming layer of insulation. Keep a sweater handy when a chill occurs, and have a lap throw or afghan on hand when you’ll be sitting still for any length of time. Remember to wear a warm coat if you’re going out, even if it’s just a quick trip to the store. You never know when you might be stopped in snowbound traffic, and that warm coat will be a godsend if you get stuck for any length of time in a chilly car.
- Monitor your mood — The long, dark days of winter with its gloomy weather can dampen anyone’s spirits, especially an older person who may have limited mobility or who may live alone. Pay attention if you feel like the winter blues are getting the best of you and take steps to lighten it. Get up and get dressed each morning; don’t spend too much time in bed. Find ways to spend time with friends and family, or even pets. Turn on some lights as soon as it starts to get dark in the afternoon and listen to cheerful, upbeat music. If these simple steps don't help with feelings of depression, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
- Avoid slips and falls — Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage, 2.5 million Americans over age 65 are treated in emergency rooms for injuries caused by falls. Of those, 700,000 end up requiring hospitalization — usually for a hip fracture. Take precautions against slips and falls this winter. Use nonslip doormats in the entryway and clean up any pools that form on the floor from melting snow. Install sturdy handrails near outdoor steps and along walkways. Keep sidewalks clear of snow and add salt to keep them free of ice. When outdoors, wear shoes or boots with good traction.
Winter can be a wonderful time of year. Taking these simple steps can help ensure that you — or your loved one — can truly enjoy the season.
Bonnie Coberly uses her certifications that she earned from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers. Bonnie and her team are focused on providing their clients with the tools they need to improve their health as they age.