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Is feeling cold a warning sign of morbidity in the elderly?

The aging process affects our health and well-being in several ways. One of the common issues that many elderly people face is feeling cold all the time.  While feeling cold seems like a minor inconvenience, it is a warning sign of morbidity in the elderly. In medicine, morbidity is defined as being sick or unhealthy. When an elderly person feels cold regularly, it could indicate an underlying health condition or disease that needs to be addressed promptly. Why does feeling cold in elderly indicate morbidity?

  • Reduced circulation- Reduced blood flow occurs due to narrowing and less elastic blood vessels as we age. This reduced circulation can make us feel colder.
  • Decreased metabolism- Metabolism refers to how efficiently our bodies convert food into energy. As we age, our metabolism slows down, causing less heat and feeling colder.
  • Loss of muscle mass- Elderly people tend to have less muscle mass than younger individuals. Since muscles generate heat when they contract, having less muscle mass can make us feel colder.
  • Hormonal changes- Certain hormonal changes that occur during menopause (in women) or with thyroid dysfunction can also cause feelings of being overly cold.

When is feeling cold a warning sign?

While feeling cold may not always indicate a serious health issue in the elderly, there are instances where it should raise concern. The following conditions are associated with persistent feelings of being overly cold:

  • Hypothyroidism- Hypothyroid thyroid glands don’t produce enough hormones. Even in warm environments, hypothyroidism causes you to feel cold. Dry skin, fatigue, and weight gain are other symptoms.
  • Anemia- Your body cannot carry oxygen throughout your body if you have insufficient red blood cells. Since oxygen helps regulate your body’s temperature, experiencing anemia can make you feel cold and fatigued.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)- It is a condition where there is reduced blood flow to the limbs due to narrowed arteries. This reduced circulation can cause feelings of being overly cold in the hands and feet.
  • Poor nutrition- Elderly individuals who do not eat a balanced diet with sufficient calories may experience malnutrition. Malnourished individuals often have low energy levels and feel cold more frequently than those who eat well-balanced meals.
  • Underlying health conditions- Persistent feelings of being overly cold may also indicate underlying health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease that require medical attention.

What can you do about feeling cold?

If you are an elderly person experiencing persistent feelings of being overly cold, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Any underlying health conditions causing these symptoms will be diagnosed and treated by your doctor.

  • Dress warmly- Wear layers of clothing made from insulating materials such as wool or fleece.
  • Stay active- Regular exercise can help improve circulation and metabolism.
  • Eat well- A balanced diet rich in nutrients can help keep your body functioning optimally.
  • Avoid smoking- Smoking constricts blood vessels, which reduces circulation.
  • Keep hydrated- Staying hydrated helps regulate body temperature by allowing sweat production when necessary.

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