Tag Archives: body temperature

Hot Cocoa and Winter Health Risks

Long View: Cold Hands, Hot Cocoa

I always remember December from my childhood, when the weather got subzero, and the wind was playfully whipping snowflakes around. School was out for the holidays, and my sister and I always loved to play outdoors, despite the frigid temperatures.

We would come downstairs with our garb, and Mom would get us all bundled up to brave the weather. Snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots were standard outerwear those days. My mom would secure the scarf so that it would stay put, and the hat would cover my ears and my forehead. When she was through, I could barely see and hardly move.

I remember stiffly walking out the door, hoping that with more movement, I would loosen up enough to enjoy some of the winter wonderland we called our yard. Hot cocoa would be waiting for us when we came in, and it was like magic what that cup of warmth could do!

Today, I run out of the house without a coat, hat, gloves, or scarf, thinking, I’m just going to the car, then running in to work. My days of bundling up are over. This is what happens when you go from 6 years old to 60. But honestly, what am I thinking?

Winter health risks should be a concern for our aging population. (Hey, that’s me too!) The most obvious risk is the weather itself. Midwestern winters can consist of ice and snow. Driving is a challenge. Walking is even more of a challenge. Slips on ice are a major risk, so it’s important to wear the right shoes or boots with good traction if you have to go out.  

Hypothermia is also a common winter weather health risk. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees, and once it gets to that point for a prolonged period of time, you can’t produce enough energy to stay warm.

Symptoms include shivering, cold pale skin, lack of coordination, slowed reactions and breathing, and mental confusion. It’s good to pay attention to how cold it is where you are, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Also, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up a healthy weight. Body fat helps you stay warm.

Frostbite is another health risk during the winter months. Frostbite means your skin has been over-exposed to cold temperatures, and it usually affects the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. It can be severe and cause permanent damage to the skin, and even progress to the bone.

Frostbite can affect anyone who is exposed to below freezing temperatures, in particular, those who aren’t wearing the right clothing. It’s important to wear layers, preferably 2 to 3 layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Covering up your nose and mouth will also protect your lungs from the cold air.

As for drinking a cup of hot cocoa, well, that is a winter weather health benefit! According to a study at Cornell University, hot cocoa has almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and 2 to 3 times more than green tea! This winter, enjoy the magic of the season by keeping yourself safe and warm.

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Checkup for Thyroid Awareness Month

Thyroid Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Do you know how important your thyroid is?

The Importance of Your Thyroid

 

About 1% of Americans will develop enlarged thyroids, and it affects  5-10 times more women than men.

Women and Thyroid Problems

 

Most of the 30 million people with a thyroid condition don’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone.

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Thyroid cancer can be painless and without symptoms. Learn more to protect yourself.

Thyroid Cancer Danger

 

To find thyroid problems and cancer early, learn how to do this simple Neck Check self-exam.

It’s extremely important to take care of the thyroid during pregnancy and infancy. Why?

Your Thyroid During Pregnancy

 

Medication adherence is key for those with hypothyroidism. MyPillCheck can help.

Taking Your Thyroid Meds

 

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Summer in the South

Long View: Beat the Heat in the Dog Days of Summer

As some of you may know, I am originally from Alabama. During a recent visit there in August, I was shocked it was so miserably hot and humid.

I asked my friend Brenda how we functioned in this kind of weather when we were teenagers. She reminded me we were not very sensitive to a lot of things when we were 15 or so. Her husband told me when it’s exceptionally hot nowadays, the schools don’t let the kids go outside for recess or lunch. Really? We never minded the heat as kids.

It seems as we age, we aren’t as tolerant of weather extremes as we were when we were younger. I figure I have a 40-degree window of optimum temperatures these days. Above or below, it’s a problem. Don’t get me started on the humidity. A number of factors can impact comfort levels for any given individual.

I asked Carle Wellness Program Coordinator Karen Stefaniak for a more technical explanation for this reduced tolerance.

“People over the age of 65 are more likely to experience elevated body temperature,” she said. “As we age, the body loses its ability to adjust to sudden temperature changes. In some people, this can be caused by a chronic condition and/or prescription medications. But in general, with the process of aging comes a reduced ability to sweat and shiver. Unfortunately, decreased thirst awareness can lead to dehydration. These factors limit the body’s ability to stay cool when it’s hot outside.”

But there is hope. She shared some tips for handling the heat.

“Prevent heat-related illness by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, drinking plenty of cool (nonalcoholic) beverages, staying in the air conditioning, and remaining indoors during the heat of the day.”

As usual, Karen makes perfect sense. One thing Alabama taught me about heat is to slow down and enjoy the moment. We should all be mindful during any weather extreme.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.