The busy days of the holiday season sometimes make it easier to overlook the grey days of winter. Now that they are behind us, it is hard to avoid noticing that winter is here. For elderly Connecticut residents, cold, icy weather can create unique problems.

If you are a caregiver, here are 5 potential health risks to watch for with your senior loved one this winter:

  1. Vitamin D Deficiency. In colder climates like ours, the elderly are at greater risk for a vitamin D deficiency. One reason is that older adults avoid going outdoors as much in the winter fearing they will fall on snowy, icy sidewalks. Because sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most of us, that usually leads to a drop in vitamin D. That deficiency impacts more than just bone health. It has now been linked to health problems that range from cancer to heart disease and severe muscle pain.
  2. Increased Risk for Stroke or Heart Attack. In Connecticut, winter often comes with snow and ice. Keeping sidewalks clear or wood hauled in for the fireplace are physically demanding jobs, especially for older adults. Add to that the fact that seniors are less likely to take their daily walk in the winter. It all adds up to more heart attacks and strokes occurring during winter months.
  3. The Winter Blues. The post-holiday slump affects many people in the winter. For some, however, winter blues can be much worse. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition experienced by people of all ages. Symptoms include feelings of despair, fatigue, and anxiety.  Older adults who may not soak up much fresh air and sunshine in the winter are especially susceptible. Call your loved one’s physician for an appointment if they don’t seem to be bouncing back.
  4. Blood Pressure Goes Up. According to the Stroke Association, winter weather causes blood pressure to rise. That is because our blood vessels constrict in response to colder temperatures. It is nature’s way of helping us retain body heat. The problem is that it makes the heart work harder which in turn causes blood pressure to climb.
  5. Respiratory Problems. If you are a caregiver for a senior loved one who lives with a chronic respiratory illness, you know winter can be a tough time of year. Even a simple cold can place them at higher risk of developing something more serious. Keep an eye out for a cough that won’t go away or a cold they can’t seem to shake, and call the doctor. Early intervention is important in preventing bronchitis or pneumonia.

Photo Credit: Jeff S. PhotoArt via Compfight cc