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With winter here, seniors face certain health risks

December 21, 2012

The arrival of winter often places seniors on high alert for common conditions such as the flu, but the colder weather also brings other threats to healthy aging. Everything from heart attacks to vitamin D deficiency tend to increase in the winter, but there are a few steps seniors can take now to protect themselves, according to AARP.

Heart attacks and strokes tend to increase during the winter, and  that spike is consistent throughout the country, even in areas that don't receive any snow. Experts say the drop in temperature is to blame because it tends to narrow and constrict blood vessels.

There are several lifestyle changes seniors can take to reduce their risk of heart attack during the winter, and many of them are consistent with healthy aging. For instance, older adults should focus on their diet and include nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D to help maintain their heart health.

The heart is not the only organ that can be affected by the winter chill. According to AARP, dropping temperatures can also impact the lungs and raise the risk of conditions such as asthma or pneumonia. This can also discourage seniors from exercising because they don't want to head outside once the thermometer drops.

"You really need to engage in regular exercise during cold weather, but many people don't," Dr. Roger Blumenthal told AARP. "Maybe you can't walk outside when it's too cold, but you should do home exercises - perhaps get a treadmill."

The colder months can also impact seniors' moods. Fewer hours of daylight coupled with the stark landscape can make anyone feel depressed, but it's important for older adults to stay positive, because depression is tied to a number of other serious health issues.