Help the elderly to stay well and avoid serious ilness this winter urgesNHS Bedford

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With cold winter weather upon us, the NHS in Bedfordshire urges local residents to look out for elderly and vulnerable people and help them to stay well and safe.

Cold weather can affect everyone, but for older people a drop in temperature can aggravate some health problems, and make injury or illness more likely: it can lead to a spell in hospital which could be avoided with some simple actions.

The elderly are more susceptible to cold for several reasons.

If they are not active, not eating enough, take medication that interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, or their house is cold, it can all lead to health problems.

As people get older they are more likely to have a long-term health condition which can affect their ability to feel the cold. This can affect people who have dementia, heart problems, severe arthritis, or stroke.

Nobody wants to be injured by falling when it is icy or snowing, but elderly or frail people are at risk of exactly that – ending up with a broken femur.

Over 75s are more likely to fall due to balance problems and muscle weakness; poor vision and long term conditions such as heart disease; dementia or low blood pressure which can lead to dizziness and sometimes a brief loss of consciousness.

GP Dr Alvin Low, Chair of NHS Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) said: “In the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75, so it makes sense to take action to prevent a fall.

“If you have elderly relatives or neighbours, could you offer some practical support and help them take extra precautions against the effects of cold weather?

“Drop by regularly to check that they are OK - a friendly knock on the door can make all the difference.

“Perhaps offer to get their shopping, collect a prescription, stock up with remedies for a cold, or ensure they get a hot meal and stay warm enough at home.”