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Aging Gracefully: Why Am I So Cold?

As people grow older, they may feel chilly, or even downright cold, more easily and more often. What causes this, and what does it mean for their overall health?

Chances are their bodies are merely going through a natural dip in metabolic rate due to the aging process. A lowered metabolic rate affects the body’s ability to maintain what is considered a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees. When metabolism slows, so does the body’s ability to generate heat. This means seniors can become cold outdoors in the sun during summer or indoors in a well-heated room during winter.

There are other reasons seniors may be unduly cold, so it is important they to seek medical advice in order to identify underlying causes. Hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease are chronic medical conditions that affect body temperature. Caregivers can help their clients take the necessary steps to manage these conditions if they are found to be the reason for the client’s discomfort. It is important to note that, regardless of the reason, the body’s inability to stay warm can lead to hypothermia if the body temperature reaches 95 degrees or below. Seniors in frail health are more susceptible to hypothermia, even when the room temperature is 71 to 75 degrees.

Whether being cold is the result of slowed metabolism or a medical condition, older adults must stay warm to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Nearly half of the elderly who develop hypothermia die from its effects. Therefore,  sweaters should be staples for both men and women, and gloves are a must during cold months. While seniors should not bundle up so much that they overheat, keeping a cozy blanket nearby can help during times of low activity in the home. Caregivers can encourage seniors to wear caps or scarfs when going outdoors. Additional measures seniors can take to combat cold are to enjoy large meals during cold weather, as the digestive process generates heat within the body, and drink warm beverages such as hot chocolate. Avoiding alcoholic beverages is also recommended as they cause the body to lose heat.

With a little education, caregivers, seniors, and their families can determine which changes are parts of the natural aging process and which may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention. The key to aging gracefully is knowing what changes seniors will experience as they age and how these changes affect the body. While  the aging process cannot be halted, seniors can be prepared by being aware of their bodies, and their bodies’ signals and transitions. By spending time with seniors, caregivers and family will also be more aware of these changes and can aid the senior in making adjustments as needed to ensure health, happiness, and independence for as long as possible.

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