Exposure to cold weather for prolonged periods of time can be dangerous. It raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and can cause problems for people with breathing difficulties such as asthma.
By following some simple suggestions, we can help ourselves to stay healthy, safe and as comfortable as possible this winter.
It’s important to stay active as this generates heat and helps to keep you warm.
Try to keep moving when you’re indoors, and don't sit still for more than an hour. If walking is difficult, you can do chair-based exercises. But even simply moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes will get your circulation going.
- Keep your hands and face warm – if they get cold they can trigger a rise in blood pressure which puts you at risk of a heart attack.
- Remember that several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, as the layers trap warm air.
- Wear warm clothes in bed. When very cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat – a lot of heat is lost through your head.
It’s important to make sure you eat enough in winter and hot meals and drinks will help to keep you warm.
Follow our tips to keep you eating well this winter:
- Try to eat at least one hot meal each day and have hot drinks during the day.
- Include a good range of foods in your diet and aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, so that you’re getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Remember that frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh.
- If you’re worried about a poor appetite, speak to your GP.
- Have a hot drink before bed and keep one in a flask by your bedside.
Eat for heat: what to eat to stay warm and healthy this winter
Have a seasonal flu jab
If you’re over 65, the Government recommends that you have a seasonal flu jab. Flu can develop into pneumonia, which can be serious. It takes up to ten days for the vaccine to take effect, so it’s best to have it early on in the winter.
Check you’ve had a ‘pneumo’ jab
The ‘pneumo’ (or pneumococcal) jab is a one-off jab that helps protect you against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. Ask your GP about it if you’re over 65 and haven’t had one.
Give up smoking
Smoking lowers your immune system and can cause serious health conditions. After you stop smoking, you’ll quickly notice that your breathing is easier and that doing any exercise is more comfortable.
Ask at your GP practice about NHS services to help you give up. You can call the free NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 022 4332.
Protect yourself against chilblains
Chilblains are itchy red swellings that occur when your skin gets cold and you try to warm up too quickly, often by sitting close to a radiator or other source of heat.
To help prevent chilblains, keep your whole body warm at all times – wear trousers, socks or thick tights and a scarf, hat and gloves whenever you go out in the cold. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on treating chilblains and to your GP if you get them regularly or have diabetes.
Winter health tips with Dr Sarah Jarvis
Keep your spirits up
It’s not unusual to feel a bit down in winter. If you can’t visit friends or family, make sure that you phone or Skype them regularly for a chat.
If you're worried about feeling lonely this winter, why not take a look at our befriending services? Many local Age UKs provide befriending services, some by telephone and some where a volunteer visits you at your home.
If you feel down for several weeks and it’s stopping you going out, making you feel listless and lacking in energy, it’s very important to share these feelings with someone, perhaps a friend or your GP.
For more advice on staying healthy this winter, download our winter wrapped up guide.
Read our tips on help with winter heating costs.