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Staying healthy

Women cooking at home

Keep moving

Staying active is not only essential for your general wellbeing and fitness - it also generates heat and helps to keep you warm.

When you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour. Get up and walk around, make yourself a warm drink and spread any chores throughout the day.

Chair-based exercises are helpful if walking is difficult, along with moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes.

Eat well

Hot meals and drinks help to keep you warm, so eat at least one hot meal each day and have hot drinks during the day. Having a hot drink before bed and keeping one in a flask by your bedside are good ideas too.

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 vegatables are as good as fresh.

It’s important to eat enough, especially in winter. If you’re worried about a poor appetite, speak to your GP.

Have a seasonal flu jab

If you’re over 65, the Government recommends that you have a seasonal flu jab every year. Flu viruses are always changing, so you need a jab every year, using the latest vaccine. Flu is not only unpleasant; it can also develop into pneumonia, which can be serious.

Your jab will be free if:

  • you’re 65 or over
  • you receive Carer’s Allowance or are the carer for a person whose welfare will be at risk if you fall ill
  • you have a condition such as diabetes, a chronic heart, lung, kidney or liver problem, Parkinson’s, or if you have had a stroke.

It takes up to ten days for the vaccine to take effect, so it’s best to have it early on in the winter.

Your vaccinated arm may be sore, or you may have a slight temperature or aching muscles for a few days, but other side effects are rare.

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. If you’re over 65 and haven’t had one, ask your GP.

Give up smoking

This is a good thing for your overall health, as smoking lowers your immune system and can cause serious health conditions. After you stop smoking, you’ll quickly notice that you’re breathing is easier and that doing any exercise is more comfortable.

Ask your GP practice about NHS services to help you give up. Call the free NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.

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.

If you suffer from these, dab the swellings with calamine or witch hazel to reduce itching, but don’t scratch them as this could cause an infection.

To help prevent chilblains, keep your whole body warm at all times.
Speak to your pharmacist for advice on treating chilblains and to your GP if you regularly get them or have diabetes.

Take care when driving

If you absolutely have to drive in bad weather, make sure you allow extra time for your journey. Tell someone your destination and when you expect to arrive. Always fully charge your mobile phone before you set off on a journey and make sure you have warm clothes, boots, food, water, a torch and a spade in case you need them.

Keep your spirits up

It’s not unusual to feel a bit down in winter – particularly when the days are short and it can get dark by 3.30pm. It helps to do something you enjoy every day.

Try to keep to your usual routine and if you can’t visit friends or family, phone or Skype them regularly. If possible, go for a short walk in the middle of the day, if it’s not too cold, or at least go outside while there is daylight.

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 information about staying healthy during the winter, see our free information guide Winter wrapped up.

Download the guide 

You can also download our free winter health resources

Further information

Downloads

Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081

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